By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
No. 1 Baylor volleyball is one of the final four teams standing after defeating No. 8 Washington in four sets (25-20, 21-25, 25-19, 25-18) Saturday in the Waco Regional final.
The Bears victory over the Huskies at the Ferrell Center earned them a berth in the team’s first national semifinal in program history.
Junior outside hitter Yossiana Pressley owned the spotlight in the win, posting 24 kills with just three errors for a .512 clip. Pressley’s effort earned her the Most Outstanding Player Award for the regional. Head coach Ryan McGuyre said after the game that his “Player of the Year” showed up when they needed her most.
“If we don’t get that performance that we got out of her tonight, it’s a different story,” McGuyre said. “A lot of other highlights of what our girls are able to do, but [Pressley] brought it to the highest level and just proud of her for getting there.”
Junior setter Hannah Lockin thoroughly outplayed opposing setter and Volleyball USA athlete Ella May Powell. Lockin earned All-Regional Team after her 48 assist performance Saturday, paired with seven kills on seven attempts and eight digs as well.
Redshirt sophomore opposite hitter Marieke van der Mark continued her hot streak with nine kills on 13 attempts, bringing her total over the last four matches to 51. Senior outside hitter Gia Milana also added 10 kills on 24 attempts with two blocks.
The two middle blockers had elite performances as well. Fifth-year senior Shelly Stafford earned nine kills with a .667 hitting percentage and freshman Kara McGhee supplied six kills of her own. The two combined for seven blocks to keep the Huskie hitters off balance.
In total, six Bears finished with at least six kills, with three finishing in double digits. Baylor totaled its season-high in both total kills (67) and hitting percentage (.479). Washington head coach Keegan Cook said the Bears played well enough to win a title Saturday.
“Baylor was excellent,” Cook said. “Firing on all cylinders, passing the ball well … and they steadied out and made it a very physical game for us … A great team that played great in a big moment. So yeah, good luck to them in Pittsburgh. They’ve got everything you need to be successful there.”
The Bears were backed by a crowd of over 3,000 fans in their final home match of the season. McGuyre said the energy in the Ferrell was “electric.”
“We talk about multiplying joy all the time,” McGuyre said. “We just want it to be enjoyable. All the work we put in, all the work administration put in … we don’t care who gets the credit, so we just have these battles thanking each other that we can creat an atmosphere like that.”
No. 1 Baylor volleyball will now head away from home for the first time since Nov. 26. They are set for a rematch with No. 4 Wisconsin on Thursday night in Pittsburgh for a chance to play in the national championship game on Saturday. The Bears defeated Wisconsin in their past two meetings, including a 3-1 win in Madison, Wis. on Sept. 6.