By Cody Soto
Baylor volleyball couldn’t overcome 16 hitting errors in the final three sets and dropped a five-set heartbreaker to No. 23 Kansas State Saturday night at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (14-14, 4-9 Big 12) struggled to keep the ball in play and allowed Kansas State (21-6, 8-5 Big 12) to avenge a five-set upset on Sept. 27. Baylor hit .205 to drop the team’s late night thriller 25-22, 25-16, 18-25, 19-25, 9-15.
“In the first two sets, we did a great job [at keeping the ball in play],” head coach Jim Barnes said. “We are a very talented team, but when we hit the ball out we have no shot, and that’s what we did in sets three, four and five.”
Junior outside hitter Andie Malloy led all players with 21 kills and had 14 digs for her 17th double-double of the season. Freshman outside hitter Katie Staiger downed 15 kills on a .250 hitting effort, and junior middle hitter Adrien Richburg added 10 kills in the five-set loss.
Junior setter Amy Rosenbaum had 54 assists and passed the 2,000 career assists milestone in the loss. Senior libero Hope Ogden had 19 digs in the back row, followed by junior outside hitter Thea Munch-Soegaard with 12. Freshman libero Jana Brusek had suffered a concussion prior to the match and did not see any game action.
Baylor and Kansas State traded the first 18 points to start the match, but the Bears used a 4-0 run to take the lead and force a Wildcat timeout. The Wildcats tied it up at 16-all, but several hitting errors gave Baylor the 21-19 lead. Staiger pounded the ball to the floor to give Baylor the set point at 24-21. A Kansas State kill kept the game alive, but senior outside hitter Nicole Bardaji nailed a deep kill to give the Bears the 25-22 first set win.
Sophomore middle hitter Tola Itiola and Richburg hit two big kills for Baylor, and another kill by Itiola forced a Kansas State timeout as the Bears led 6-3. Baylor continued to roll and went on a 4-1 run to go up 10-4 in the set. The Bears took a 10-point lead after Kansas State committed a net violation, and an out-of-bounds Kansas State kill gave Baylor the 25-16 second set win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
“In the first two sets, we were really successful in running the middle,” Malloy said. “The passing was very in-sync and consistent, so we were able to run the middle and they were getting some splits to put the ball away.”
Things didn’t look so good for Baylor after that. A hitting error by Kansas State tied the match at 5-5, but the Wildcats took a 3-0 run to step in front. A service ace by sophomore middle hitter Sam Hill put the Bears on top 10-9 early in the third set, but Kansas State returned the favor and used a service ace to take the lead at 16-15. It seemed as if the momentum shifted with that play. A hitting error by Staiger late in the game caused the Wildcats to take the third set 25-18.
“Kansas State did a good job of hitting around our block, and at times whenever they did challenge it, we would get good touches,” Barnes said. “However, they used our block at times [to score].”
An early Kansas State block forced a Baylor timeout, and the Bears couldn’t get their offense consistent enough to catch up for the rest of the set. An ace by Rosenbaum pulled Baylor within three points, but several missed serves and hitting errors forced the Bears to play from behind. Bardaji had a kill late in the set, but a bad serve-receive error made Baylor drop the fourth set 25-19 and forced a fifth and deciding set.
“Every time we would put pressure on them, we would win some long rallies, and that would give us momentum,” Malloy said. “On times where we would make silly errors and not get the digs and blocks that we were supposed to, then [the points] kept adding up and went against us.”
An early kill by Itiola tied up the match at 2-2, and Baylor used a block from Malloy to tie it up once more at 4-4. A service error by Kansas State gave the ball to Baylor at 6-8, but the Bears suffered a 7-3 run to end the game and drop the final set 15-9 to the Wildcats. Kansas State used 14 kills in the final set and a .591 hitting effort to avenge the Bears’ five-set win in Manhattan, Kan.
“As long as we keep the ball in play, we win. We played two really good sets where we kept the ball in play, but in the final three we didn’t,” Barnes said. “The girls played hard but there were too many hitting errors.”
The Bears will finish their 2014 home season with a match against No. 5 Texas Wednesday night at the Ferrell Center. The final conference home game will begin at 7 p.m. and will be aired on Fox Sports Southwest.