By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Baylor volleyball bounced back Wednesday after a loss to Texas Friday, defeating Kansas State in three sets, 26-24, 25-14, 25-23. Coming out of a tough loss, it was important for the team not to lose focus.
“I think we never lost sight of our overall goal,” transfer middle blocker Preslie Anderson said. “We definitely wanted to come in here and get a clean sweep, I think that’s always the goal. We knew K-State was going to put up a battle, and even in times that we were down, it didn’t feel like we were down.”
Baylor was without junior setter Callie Williams and opposite hitter Marieke Van der Mark. Williams was already slated to miss the game due to a prior injury, but Van der Mark went down with what appeared to be a foot or ankle injury during warmups. Van der Mark was carried off the floor and would not return to the contest. Details on Van der Mark’s injury are not yet clear.
On the bright side, Baylor put together a solid win with contributions from a variety of players. Sophomore outside hitter KJ Johnson slid into Van der Mark’s spot without missing a beat, racking up a career-high eight kills.
“I just had the mindset to make sure I was going in there and playing for my team and stepping up in whatever way they needed me to,” Johnson said. “It was just really exciting to get out there and play with everybody because they’re so fun to play with.”
Joining Johnson as the top performers in the kill column were outside hitters Yossiana Pressley and Lauren Harrison, who finished with 13 kills each. Anderson also had a big night, with five kills and three block assists, coming with a strong .625 hitting percentage. The line of the night came from senior setter Hannah Sedwick.
Sedwick was played closer to the net and as such, took on a slightly different role. Still the team’s top passer, Sedwick dished out 34 assists. Where her line jumps off the page is the six blocks she posted. While setters aren’t traditionally known for their blocking ability, Sedwick’s play around the net is widely praised by her teammates and coaches.
“You can ask a lot of other middles — they probably don’t like blocking with their setters in the front row because usually they’re a liability,” Anderson said. “I 100% think that Hannah is our best blocker on the team. She’s so smart. She’s always engaged. It really helps me out having such a good blocker because my block assists go up when I’m standing next to her. She’s just super disciplined and does everything so selflessly.”
The first set was the match’s most competitive, going into extra serves to decide a winner. The Wildcats were the first to put more than a point of distance between the teams, taking a 5-3 lead early. The set never saw any more separation than that, being within one for a large portion of play. Baylor hit over .400 in the first set, helping give them the advantage they needed to put the opening frame away. Kills from Harrison and Johnson finished off the first in a 26-24 win for the Bears.
As competitive as the first set was, the second was all Baylor. Three consecutive Wildcat attack errors and a Pressley kill helped Baylor build a 13-9 lead. The Bears controlled the rest of the set, finishing on a 12-5 scoring tear. K-State struggled to get anything going on offense in the second, recording just six kills in the set. That might have had something to do with a dominant defensive performance by Baylor. Baylor had six blocks in the second, while also holding K-State to a negative hit percentage.
In the third, the Wildcats made a valiant effort to extend the match as Baylor trailed in the late stages of the set 16-19 before retaking the lead. A kill from Pressley, an ace from Shanel Bramschreiber and a bad set from K-State, and all of a sudden, the game was tied. A 3-1 run would end the set and the match, sending Kansas State home with a 25-23 loss in the final set and a 3-0 loss in the match. The Bears looked strong in this one, and head coach Ryan McGuyre feels the win puts them in a strong position for the rest of the season.
“This is the time of year when you want to be playing your best volleyball,” McGuyre said. “Moving forward, you don’t want to take dingers from losses, but you want to learn and grow from each match. Probably really most pleased with the energy the girls brought themselves. Probably was a little bit of a dead atmosphere at two o’clock, but it didn’t seem to affect them too much.”
Baylor returns to the court on at 6 p.m. Thursday for a match with in-state power Texas State. The Bobcats are 29-8 on the season and 15-1 in conference play. The game will air on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.