By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
In a season where Baylor volleyball has reached highs in ranking and RPI and solidified a second place finish in the Big 12, it had one final hurdle to climb—knock off No. 2 Texas.
On Senior Day, Baylor pushed the Longhorns in every set, but ultimately the Longhorns prevailed, using a balanced offensive attack to knock off the Bears in four sets, 27-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19.
Four Longhorns finished in double digits in kills, including 13 kills a piece from senior opposite hitter Ebony Nwanebu, senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu and freshman outside hitter Lexi Sun. Sophomore outside hitter Micaya White added 10 kills as well.
Baylor looked poised early on to end its 17-match losing streak to the Longhorns.
The Bears exploded out of the gate, jumping in front 4-0 behind two kills from freshman outside hitter Yossiana Pressley and extending its lead to 11-2 after a kill by junior outside hitter Aniah Philo.
The Longhorns slowly began to chip away at Baylor’s lead, adjusting to the block at the net that led to several Texas errors in the opening minutes by dumping little tips over the block for easy points.
Pressley gave Baylor a set point at 24-23 with her eighth kill of the set, but two errors down the stretch helped Texas escape with a 27-25 win.
Pressley said the Bears lost a little bit of their aggressive play toward the end of the opening set as they let Texas off the hook.
“It was a tough one, we got into a rut toward the middle of the game. We shouldn’t have done that because those are key points. We needed to stay tough, stay aggressive,” Pressley said.
In the second, Texas jumped in front early 5-2 and it was Baylor’s turn to rally.
The Bears settled into the set and held off the Longhorns by rattling off three straight kills, one by Pressley, one by freshman setter Hannah Lockin and the final one from redshirt sophomore middle hitter Shelly Fanning to claim the second set 25-21.
The third set went back and forth and ended in controversy.
Trailing 24-22, Baylor cut the lead to one after a Longhorn error. On the ensuing return, Lockin did a decoy set over the net that fell for the tying point. But the official called a double hit, giving Texas the set 25-23, much to the chagrin of McGuyre and the Baylor faithful.
“It’s part of volleyball. You’ve got officials that got to make some tough calls and my preference is normally just swallow it and let the athletes play. I thought he did that a couple of times,” McGuyre said. “Tough way to end the set. He made the call that he thought was right and we have to deal with it and move on.”
The swing in emotion and momentum stayed with Texas entering the fourth set as the Longhorns jumped out 8-0, forcing a Baylor timeout.
The Bears kept fighting, eventually cutting the deficit to two at 21-19. Texas then rose to the occasion once more, getting kills by Sun and Nwanebu to get the lead to 23-19. Two Baylor errors on the attack closed the match as the Longhorns took the fourth set 25-19.
Pressley continued her strong season, leading the way for Baylor, tallying 23 kills and collecting 13 digs and continuing to impress her coach and teammates.
“Yossi did a phenomenal, phenomenal job. Really played like a first team All-American against one of the best teams in the country,” McGuyre said.
Philo also finished with a double-double, recording 12 kills and 14 digs.
Baylor (23-6, 13-3) will now wait to find out if it will host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Bears will find out who and where they play when the NCAA Tournament is announced tomorrow, but McGuyre is confident Baylor can host the first two rounds.
“I have a deep joy and gladness in my heart that we got to battle today. Whatever happens tomorrow is going to happen. I think we should be hosting. I think we will be hosting,” McGuyre said. “There are so many good teams Once you hit postseason, everybody’s a good team, but it would be nice to get these seniors a couple more victories on their home court before we have to go somewhere else.”
The 2017 NCAA Tournament field will be announced at 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.