By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Baylor volleyball came out strong to start its series with the visiting Kansas State Wildcats, winning in four sets 25-15, 24-26, 27-25, 25-19.
K-State currently sits at No. 10 in the AVCA poll, and is Baylor’s third consecutive ranked opponent after matches with West Virginia and Texas. After dropping two in a row in Austin, it was encouraging for head coach Ryan McGuyre to see the Bears do well against a high level opponent.
“Glad we were able to finish off the match,” McGuyre said. “I’m not sure we were ever horrendous in any phase, but it felt like our offense was rolling, [and] our defense was lagging.”
Baylor has had rough matches to open a weekend before and it’s been something of a theme for the nation’s No. 3 team this season. They’ve dropped 11 of their total 14 lost sets in the first half of back-to-backs. McGuyre attributed their struggles early in the match to some “inconsistencies” in various phases of the game.
On the whole, the Bears played an exceptionally clean game, keeping errors low and hitting at a high percentage.
“You do everything right, we hit .400, had 50 kills, we were five errors, you know, trying to go five errors or less, served at a thousand percent and had four blocks,” McGuyre said.
Baylor’s defense has been one of its calling cards all season and that didn’t change against the Wildcats. Sophomore middle blocker Kara McGhee led the Bears with 12 blocks, followed by junior opposite Marieke van der Mark with six and seniors Hannah Sedwick and Yossiana Pressley with four each.
Another bright spot for the Bears was junior outside hitter Bri Coleman, who finished the game with two kills and two blocks in just one set played. As important as she was on the court, Coleman’s impact extends to things that don’t appear in the box score.
“I always know what we’re going to get out of Bri every single day, so I was hoping that she’d help maintain the energy, talk through the net in a good way,” McGuyre said. “Her firepower was something that K-State needed to respect.”
To hear Coleman tell it, she benefits just as much from her teammates as they do from her.
“I think it’s all about relationships, getting on the court and knowing that the girls to your left and your right trust you and respect you,” Coleman said. “Knowing that I’m fully there supporting them no matter what, so just pouring into them as best as I can, whether that’s making plays or just encouraging them.”
The first set began as a close one, with Baylor taking until the 10-7 mark to gain a three point lead. The Wildcats would tie the game at 10-10, but Baylor didn’t look back after that, going on a 15-5 run to end the set and get out to a strong start in the match. Eight errors by Kansas State in the set helped give the Bears an edge.
The second set was Baylor’s worst, going to K-State after a pair of extra serves, 26-24. No team ever held a convincing lead, as the biggest deficit for either was a measly two points. A pair of errors from the Bears late in the set kept Baylor from taking a two sets to none lead.
The third set kept the match hotly contested. Baylor and K-State went back and forth the entire set, particularly in the closing stages. Baylor went on a 3-0 run to take a 24-22 lead. The Wildcats followed with a 3-0 run of their own to move into the driver’s seat with a 25-24 lead. The Bears then went on a 3-0 run of their own, taking the set 27-25.
The fourth and final set was a more decisive one. Baylor jumped out to a 10-5 lead and kept their foot on the gas. Kansas State made a valiant effort in the middle portion of the set, knotting it up at 16, but Baylor seemed determined not to let another match slip away from them. From that point, the Bears went on a 9-3 run to take the set 25-19 and the match three sets to one.
Baylor will be back in the Ferrell Center at 2 p.m. Saturday to take another shot at the Wildcats. The game will be broadcast on Big 12 Now and ESPN+.