By Francesca Maietta | Reporter
No. 25-ranked Baylor volleyball earned its third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid for the first time in program history.
The Bears were selected to the Eugene Regional hosted by 15th-seeded Oregon. Baylor will face Hawai’i from the Big West Conference at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. If they make it to the second round, they will be facing the winner of New Mexico State and Oregon.
Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre said he is appreciative of the opportunity to play in the postseason and is satisfied with the team’s season thus far.
“So grateful to be in the tournament. It’s something we’ve come to expect from ourselves,” McGuyre said. “The first time we got in it was really special. Now we’re battling for a seed to try and be able to give our fans at home the opportunity to see us play a little longer. We’re excited. With all the injuries we’ve had and some of those up-and-down moments, it was a battle to finish second in Big 12 [and] we’re pleased with that.”
Baylor is 5-6 all-time in NCAA tournament play after making it to the second round the past two seasons. Junior middle blocker Shelly Fanning said she feels their previous tournament experience will be helpful.
“It’s definitely a different stage,” Fanning said. “You got to play every game like it’s your last because if you don’t, it will be. It’s definitely an interesting experience and an awesome experience for those of us who haven’t been in the tournament yet. So I’m excited for our freshmen and I’m excited for us to hopefully go further than we’ve been in the past.”
McGuyre said the Bears’ success as a program can be attributed to the leadership of President Linda Livingstone and athletic director Mack Rhoades.
“We’ve come a long long way at Baylor and it’s a product of starting from the top,” McGuyre said. “President Livingstone loves our team she loves all of athletics. Its a big part of what she’s about. Mack Rhodes, creating ‘Champions for Life.’ It’s fun as a coach to be at a place where my values and principles are kind of in full alignment with the university. That trickles down and pours into these women that just love to compete,.They love to play for the Lord. To go into the tournament and someday hopefully sooner or later win a national championship, I think it will just be a beautiful byproduct of us doing things the right way.”
The Bears are going for their first ever win against Hawai’i as the Rainbow Wahine hold a 6-0 all-time series lead.