By Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter, Video By Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
The top-seeded Baylor volleyball team advances to the NCAA Championship’s round of 32 after sweeping the Sacred Heart Pioneers (25-20, 25-18, 25-8) Friday night in the Ferrell Center.
The Bears struggled to get comfortable in the first two sets, beginning the match down 4-1 and trailing multiple times in both sets. Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre said the team was not as locked in as they needed to be.
“We, as a team, felt like Sacred Heart came ready to play, and we weren’t as sharp as we really need to be that first set and a half,” McGuyre said.
But the Bears stayed the course and finished with a dominating .443 hitting percentage. Redshirt sophomore Marieke van der Mark was crucial with a team leading 13 kills and just one error in 20 attacks, hitting .600.
“We just all played together very well,” Van der Mark said. “Hannah [Lockin] kept feeding me the ball — I kept putting the ball down. That’s playing volleyball.”
As for Lockin, the junior setter was dialed-in with 36 assists, nine digs, three kills and an ace.
“As the game went on, the rhythm just got more steady and more in line,” Lockin said.
In set one, the Pioneers looked in control early with senior Makayla Dole notching a perfect three kills on three attempts. Baylor fought back from a 4-1 deficit to lead 7-6, but went down 10-7 before a Van der Mark block later tied things up at 10.
After trailing yet again 12-11, Baylor scored four straight thanks in part to two kills from Van der Mark. It was all Bears from there. Late, emphatic kills from the outside hitters, junior Yossiana Pressley and senior Gia Milana, aided in a 24-19 lead where a service error would soon give Baylor the 25-20 set one win.
Set two was similar, as Sacred Heart struck first and even held a 12-11 lead mid-set. That’s when yet another crowd awakening kill from Van der Mark propelled the Bears to six straight points with senior Braya Hunt serving. The Pioneers would pull within two at 20-18, but it was the same story as Van der Mark threw down a kill and led Baylor on a 5-0 run to close the set at 25-18.
The Bears showed no mercy in the final set. Baylor finally struck first with a Pressley kill that jump started a 7-2 run into a Sacred Heart timeout. Heading into the media break, the Bears led 15-8 and decided to put things away from there. Van der Mark went on a tear yet again with three of the next four Baylor points coming off her successful swings — sending her into what can only be described as an explosion of emotion.
“[She is] such an energy spark,” Lockin said. “Whenever we need a little bit of energy and we get a point, it’s always Marieke just being the loudest. And then definitely I feel like everyone just feeds off of that.”
The Green and Gold used that spark to complete a 10-0 run that concluded the at 25-8 and ended Sacred Heart’s season.
Baylor stays alive and will play in the Round of 32 Saturday against Southern California.
“USC is awesome,” McGuyre remarked. “They’re physical, they’re talented, they’re coached well and [they have size] like a Texas … We just got to play better volleyball.”
Opening serve will take place at 8 p.m. in the Ferrell Center with the winner of the match advancing to the Sweet 16. A win would move Baylor past the Round of 32 for the second time in school history and the first time in the McGuyre era.