Volleyball guts out close win against Rice

Baylor volleyball celebrates its 3-2 win over Rice Friday in Houston. (Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker | Rice Athletics)

By Harper Mayfield | sports Writer

n the second night of a tough back-to-back, Baylor gutted out another win in Houston, this time taking down Rice three sets to two. With this win, Baylor moves to 18-4 on the year, and 5-1 since the start of the spring season.

Senior outside hitter and reigning national player of the year Yossiana Pressley led the Bears with 26 kills, followed by sophomore Lauren Harrison with 19. Sophomore middle blocker Kara McGhee continues to be a presence in the middle, tallying six blocks on the night. Assists were easy to come by in this one, as senior setter Hannah Sedwick dished out 27, and junior Callie Williams handed out 19. Baylor was getting on the floor at a high level, too, as three Bears finished with 13 or more digs. Pressley and Harrison also led the team in total points, with Pressley totaling 27.5, and Harrison scoring 21.

The first set was as closely contested as they come, the largest lead in the set reached just five, when the Owls led Baylor 22-17. A few quick scores helped the Bears trim the lead to 24-23, but it would be too little too late in the first, as Baylor once again started slow, losing the initial set 25-23. Baylor lost the errors battle in the first, and it was enough to keep them behind Rice.

The second set was a much better one for Baylor. The start of the set was very back-and-forth, but an 8-1 run helped the Bears get Rice out of striking distance. With the run ending in a 17-9 lead for, the Bears were set for a strong close to the set. Rice made a valiant effort to close the gap, but it wasn’t enough, as the Owls would never draw closer than six points. With a 25-16 win, Baylor knotted the match at one set a piece.

In the third, Baylor no doubt felt some deja vú from the first period. The teams traded blows for the majority of the set, and neither team led by more than three points until Rice took a 17-14 lead. The Bears struggled to get hands on the ball in the third, hitting just 17.5% across the set. The lead Rice established in the middle of the set would be too much for Baylor to overcome later, as the Bears only scored four points in the remainder of the set. After a 25-18 loss in the third, Baylor trailed two sets to one and looked to be wearing down.

The fourth period was one made of runs from each team. A 3-0 run from Rice early was met by a 3-0 run from Baylor. Later in the set, a 4-0 Baylor tear led directly into a 3-0 Rice spurt. It was Baylor’s final run in the fourth that would put Rice away in the set, and turn the tide of the match as a whole. Baylor was up 21-18, and a kill from Pressley, an ace from Shanel Bramschreiber and a block from AJ Koele pushed Baylor to set point. The Owls fought hard, and clawed their way back to 24-21, but Baylor stood strong. Another kill from Pressley finished the set 25-21.

The final set held the match in its hands, and Baylor was ready to take it from the start. A competitive start began the fifth set, as was the theme in this one, but a 4-0 push by Baylor would end it. The fifth was easily Baylor’s cleanest set of the night, hitting over 46%, and committing just one error. While Baylor’s veteran presence and poise showed at the end of the match, Rice couldn’t quite say the same. The Owls committed five errors in the final set, and it would help do them in 15-10 to close the match.

Baylor will step foot on court again at 6 p.m. Friday for a marquee matchup with Texas at the Ferrell Center. UT has handed Baylor three of their four losses this season, and the Bears are no doubt eager for another shot at the Longhorns. The game will air on ESPN+.