By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
West Virginia was not about to hand Baylor volleyball its seventh straight win.
But Baylor’s balanced offensive attack was too strong for West Virginia as the Bears erased deficits in the first two sets and held off the Mountaineers in the fourth to secure a four set win, 27-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21.
Freshman outside hitter Yossiana Pressley led the way with 14 of Baylor’s 58 team kills as the Bears hit .212 for the match. Pressley had help, getting 13 kills from sophomore middle hitter Shelly Fanning and 12 kills and 14 digs from junior outside hitter Aniah Philo.
Baylor also got some more help from the middle of the attack as redshirt senior middle hitter Tola Itiola hit .583, contributing eight kills in 12 total attacks with just one error. Seniors middle hitter Camryn Freiberg and outside hitter Katie Staiger each added five kills.
Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre said that even though it wasn’t his team’s cleanest win, any win against a Big 12 conference opponent is a good win.
“Good, gritty win on the road. Not our best match, but good composure to finish some sets off,” McGuyre said. “There’s no bad teams in our conference. West Virginia has caused problems for a lot of teams this year. I really wanted to see us be crisper. We were kind of slow to execute the game plan tonight, but we were able to pull it off in the end.”
West Virginia got off to a great start in the opening set, racing out to a 4-0 advantage. Sophomore outside hitter Payton Caffrey was the catalyst for the Mountaineers’ offense, as she delivered two aces and her first of a game-high 20 kills.
Baylor began to chip away, cutting the lead to one at 5-4, but West Virginia continued to play at a high level, building its lead to five at 20-15. The Bears did not panic, getting kills from Freiberg and Philo to trim the deficit to two at 20-18.
Freiberg put Baylor in front 23-22 on a kill that found a gap in the Mountaineers’ defense. Following a Baylor error, West Virginia had set point at 25-24, but Itiola delivered the kill to tie it and back-to-back errors by the Mountaineers gave the first set to Baylor 27-25.
West Virginia jumped out on Baylor again in the second set, going up 10-7 and forcing a timeout from McGuyre.
The Bears continued to stay in the match taking the lead at 18-17 after a West Virginia error. Although the Mountaineers three times cut the lead to one at 22-21, 23-22 and 24-23, the Bears never gave it up, getting a kill from Staiger to put Baylor up 2-0 with a 25-23 set win.
After West Virginia let and early 10-7 lead slip away in the third, the set was back and forth with Staiger tying the set at 16-16. But from that point in the set, it was all Mountaineers, as West Virginia took advantage of four Baylor errors and Caffrey delivered the exclamation point to take the third set 25-22.
In the fourth set, it was Baylor gaining the early advantage 7-5 on a kill from Philo. West Virginia battled back to tie at 10 before taking its first lead of the set at 11-10.
With a 13-12 lead and serving, West Virginia sophomore defensive specialist Gabrielle Cuckovich dumped her serve into the net, tying the set and Baylor would not look back, taking a 16-13 lead on three straight errors.
Baylor sealed the match with consecutive kills from Freiberg and Pressley to close out the set 25-21.
Baylor (23-5, 13-2) finished its road Big 12 slate 7-1 with its lone loss coming at then No. 5 Texas on Sept. 30.
McGuyre said the team’s success on the road stems from the team’s love for one another, which exemplifies each other’s gifts.
“We’ve got a team that loves each other and to be honest, the more time our girls spend with each other, the greater our gifts are strengthened,” McGuyre said. “The bus rides are fun, the hotels are fun, the focus is really dialed in. We pay attention to the details. We make some mature decisions in what we do and how we do it. Because we’re playing for the Lord, the distractions of the away matches have never really impacted this team all year.”
Riding its seven game win streak, the Bears will close out their regular season at 2 p.m. Saturday against No. 2 Texas at the Ferrell Center.