By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
After a 25-1 season and a shared Big 12 Championship, No. 1 Baylor volleyball earned the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. This is the first time in program history the Bears have earned a top-four seed in the playoffs.
The team gathered Sunday for their tradition of watching the selection show together. Players, coaches and anyone else attached to the program convened at head coach Ryan McGuyre’s home to celebrate the season and worship like the family they consider themselves. After the show, McGuyre said the tradition is something he looks forward to each season.
“It’s really the highlight of each year for me … we spent an hour of worship with a bonfire in the backyard just praising God for the gifts and talents He’s given us,” McGuyre said. “To come together and really orient and understand what it means to be servant-hearted is awesome. So, tonight to me it’s a little bit of early Christmas. It’s time to just praise God for what He’s done for us this year.”
After inarguably the best season in program history, the players gathered together to celebrate, and when “Baylor” popped up on the screen for the top seed, the entire house erupted into cheers.
The Bears have made the postseason the past three years, but they’ve failed to make it to the second weekend each time. Fifth-year senior Shelly Stafford, who has played for McGuyre during his entire run at Baylor, said her excitement at that moment was unreal.
“It was truly incredible,” Stafford said. “It’s somehing that we’ve been working so hard for all season and just to have that hard work payoff and see that tonight was … a feeling unlike anything I could just say.”
As a top-four seed, the Bears have the chance to play in Waco until they reach the Final Four. Baylor has hosted once before over their current playoff streak (2017) but failed to beat Colorado in the second game.
Since then, the home crowd has set three attendance records and can expect a healthy contingent to show up in support. McGuyre said he’s ecstatic to be able to share their success with fans in the postseason.
“Love being at home,” McGuyre said. “Our crowd has just grown so tremendously this year, and we talked about family and just multiplying with joy. And so for our crowd to be there, for us to be able to compete on our home floor where we’re comfortable and just share this passion … is going to be awesome.”
Baylor is set to face Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart (20-11) at 7 p.m. Friday night in the Ferrell Center. If the Bears move on, they will play the winner of Stephen F. Austin and USC at 8 p.m. Saturday.