Story by Nathan Keil | Sports Editor, Video by Elisabeth Tharp
Hosting its first NCAA tournament game in program history, Baylor volleyball refused to let the moment get the best of it.
Led by freshman outside hitter and reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Yossiana Pressley’s 17 kills, the Bears took care of Miami, Ohio in three sets 25-19, 25-16, 25-21 Friday night at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor earns a second round matchup with Colorado, who defeated James Madison in the day’s first match in straight sets.
Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre said Pressley’s versatility, including hitting from the outside and the back was the difference for the Baylor offense.
“Yossi really stepped up. Hitting her in the back row, I think, is going to be a force for us through the tournament,” McGuyre said.
Sophomore middle hitter Shelly Fanning, who had to sit due to injury and watch as the Bears advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, was sharp in her first NCAA Tournament match, tallying 11 kills and adding four blocks at the net.
Fanning said the home crowd of 1,610 at the Ferrell Center helped create the special experience for her and her teammates.
“Experiencing the crowd and the game with my teammates, it was just really fun,” Fanning said. “I know that we have a lot to work on as a team going into this next match, but it was a really great experience and I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”
Junior outside hitter Aniah Philo, who was named to the All Big 12 second team earlier this week, did a little bit of everything for Baylor, contributing eight kills, 13 digs and two blocks.
Pressley put away a resounding kill for the match’s first point and that point set the tone for the match.
After the opening kill, Baylor pushed ahead 7-2, following consecutive errors by the Redhawks. The Bears stayed the aggressor, pushing their lead to 23-13 following a kill by senior middle hitter Camryn Freiberg.
Two points from the opening set, Baylor temporarily lost what had gotten it the lead in the first place, committing three straight errors. Miami then got a kill from senior middle hitter Meredith Stutz before a fourth Baylor error cut the lead to 23-18.
But McGuyre trusted his team and following a kill from Philo and one more Miami point, Pressley closed the first set the way she opened it—with a resounding kill.
Miami kept it close for the beginning of the second set, tying it 6-6 following a Baylor error. But then the Bears took control, going on a 9-3 run, highlighted by back-to-back kills from Pressley and sealed on a kill from Fanning.
Baylor kept its foot on the gas, ending the set with a 7-2 run where the Bears took advantage of five Miami errors to take the second 25-16.
Miami came out in the third set, determined to force a fourth. The Redhawks jumped out to a 5-1 lead forcing McGuyre to call a timeout.
Following the timeout, Baylor battled back, taking the lead 10-9 and would never give it back. Pressley would give the Bears match point at 24-21 and the Bears would celebrate the victory after an attack error from Miami.
Baylor hit .264 as a team while limiting Miami to just .104. A big part of that was the defensive effort from the Bears as they recorded digs as a team, led by senior libero Jana Brusek’s match-high 19.
McGuyre said that it was the defensive effort that fueled the Bears on offense.
“On defense, Jana, 19 digs, awesome, awesome job. She’s just been passing lights-out. So, it opened the door for us to continue to do some great things,” McGuyre said.
Baylor (24-6) meets Colorado (23-9) for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center.