By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor volleyball has found its winning touch again.
Baylor bounced back from a three-set loss to Texas on Wednesday to knock off Oklahoma in four sets 25-10, 19-25, 25-14, 25-23 at the Ferrell Center.
Redshirt senior outside hitter Katie Staiger led the way with 26 kills,12 digs, three blocks and came up with big plays for the Bears when they needed them most.
Staiger said it was the passing skills and creativity of freshman setter Hannah Lockin that helped fuel Staiger’s success.
“Hannah was setting tempo really well,” Staiger said. “Seeing the block better and knowing that there was openings over there and being able to put the ball away.”
Baylor came out tall and swinging in the first set as the Bears jumped out to a 4-0 lead early, finding success with the block, scoring seven points in the net.
Following kills by Lockin, back-to-back kills from Staiger and another block from redshirt middle hitter Shelly Fanning pushed the Bears lead to 13-3, forcing a second Oklahoma timeout.
Oklahoma tried to fight back into the opening set, cutting the lead to 18-9, but six points off Lockin gave Baylor a set point at 24-9. Two points later, freshman outside hitter Yossiana Pressley closed the door on the first set with a bullet kill down the center of the court.
In the second set, Oklahoma blitzed Baylor on its way to a 25-19 second set win. The Sooners hit at a 20 percent clip compared to a -25 percent clip in the first set. Oklahoma also took advantage of 12 Baylor errors while serving two aces.
After trailing by as much as nine at 18-9, Baylor was able to trim the lead to five at 21-16 on two kills from junior outside hitter Aniah Philo and one from junior outside hitter Ashley Fritcher, but the hope for a comeback ended when Staiger’s attack was blocked, giving the Sooners the set.
Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre said Baylor was never afraid of Oklahoma’s pace on the attack and so it was all the more disappointing the Bears gave so many points away.
“Tonight we struggled because we had a couple of hitters that were giving away points and sometimes you got to do that [look for Staiger to attack],” McGuyre said. “I felt like Oklahoma wasn’t going to hit it hard back at us, so it was discouraging how many points we gave away.”
In the third Baylor went right back to its style from the opening set, using a 5-1 run to open the set and a 6-2 run down the stretch to take the set 25-14.
The Bears overwhelmed the Sooners with their attack, connecting on 19 kills on 38 swings with just four errors in the third. Staiger led the charge, tallying 11 kills in 16 swings, while Philo added four.
The fourth set went back and forth with neither team able to build a lead larger than one or two points.
With the set tied at 22, Staiger delivered her 26th kill of the match. Fanning then added two more kills, including a tip just over the fingers of the Oklahoma block to take the set 25-23.
Philo had another good match for Baylor, falling one kill shy of her career high, as she finished with 13 kills and 12 digs. Fanning added nine kills in the middle for Baylor.
Senior libero Jana Brusek anchored the defense with a match-high 17 digs.
Baylor showed off its depth, playing 11 players to help weather the storm of the second set, including redshirt sophomore middle hitter Jaelyn Jackson, who saw her first minutes of the season. Sophomore outside hitter Nicole Thomas and Fritcher combined for four kills and gave McGuyre key minutes with the absence of redshirt senior middle hitter Tola Itiola and the struggles of a few other Baylor hitters.
Baylor (13-4, 3-1) now heads to Ames, Iowa, for midweek showdown with No. 18 Iowa State (11-2, 2-1).
The two teams split their meetings last year, with Baylor winning in five sets on Oct. 19 in Ames and Iowa State winning in five sets on Nov. 23 at the Ferrell Center.
McGuyre said that to beat a very good Iowa State team, Baylor has to have a completely clean match.
“We need to bring it all,” McGuyre said. “We need to pack our defense with our digs. We definitely need to bring our blocking with us to Ames and we have to bring our service game.”
The Bears will meet the Cyclones at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Ames, Iowa.