By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
No. 1 Baylor volleyball’s historic run came to an end, as the Bears dropped the National Semifinal match 1-3 to No. 4 Wisconsin Thursday night in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Baylor ends the most successful season in program history with an overall record of 29-2.
Junior outside hitter Yossiana Pressley led the team as she has all season, earning 25 kills on 68 attempts, her fourth-most hits in a game this season. The Player of the Year nominee also led the Bears in digs with 16.
All-American Badger Dana Rettke led Wisconsin to the championship game with a superb 19 kills on just 31 attempts, as well as eight blocks and three service aces. Molly Haggerty also supplied 15 kills on 29 attempts with nine digs. Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre said after the game that Rettke’s performance was a game-changer.
“They’re well coached, well trained, and the all-stars for them just made some really, really big plays at some key moments,” McGuyre said. “Rettke from the service line, I thought, was probably the story of the match in disrupting us.”
The Bears pulled ahead with the first set, holding off the Badgers for a 27-25 win. Baylor closed the first frame on a 5-2 run after Wisconsin took a 23-22 lead and McGuyre called a timeout to calm his team down.
The second set remained close, with the Bears holding a lead late at 17-16 before a 5-0 run from the Badgers. Baylor then ripped off three points of their own before Wisconsin composed themselves to finish off the set 25-21.
Set three was a tired Bear performance as they mustered only 17 points in the loss. Baylor hit just .097 during the third frame and sided out at a rate of 36%. The Badgers managed their best hitting performance of the day during the tiebreaking set, rampaging for a .400 hitting percentage to take the lead.
Baylor took an early lead in the final and did their best to hold on to it. A 5-0 run while down 7-5 propelled the Bears to a 17-14 lead and a surge in momentum, but a service error stunted the Bears as the Badgers ran off 11 of the next 13 points to seal the win.
All six seniors saw playing time in their final game for Baylor. Middle blocker Shelly Stafford was second on the team in kills with 10 along with three blocks. Libero Tara Wulf notched 10 digs and three assists. Outside hitter Gia Milana earned seven kills and a season-high four blocks.
Defensive specialist Braya Hunt gained eight digs and two assists. Middle Blocker Nicole Thomas hit 1.000 in her last game as a Bear, and setter Hannah Fluegel was called in to serve in her final match.
The Bears fought hard to get to the National Semifinal. They reached pinnacle after pinnacle this season, including wins over Wisconsin and Texas, as well as a Big 12 Championship and a Regional Championship. Even with a 29-2 record, McGuyre said postgame that the wins aren’t what make a good season.
“As a team, we win together, we lose together, and are thankful for this opportunity,” McGuyre said. “And not only just getting here but the journey getting here has been very, very, very well cherished.”