By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer, Video by Briana Garcia | Broadcast Reporter
No. 5 Baylor volleyball kicked off its journey to a national title with a sweep over Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Senior outside hitters Yossiana Pressley and Avery Skinner led the way with 16 and 11 kills, respectively. Skinner also finished with a double-double with 14 digs. Junior outside hitter Lauren Harrison also had 11 kills on a .320 hitting percentage. Senior opposite side hitter Marieke van der Mark had a great performance, showing up in the match’s most important moments and bringing energy from the start. She finished with seven kills on a .583 hitting percentage and three blocks.
“It’s pretty awesome,” van der Mark said. “Not a lot of teams get to do this, and then getting to do it at home is just such a blessing. We just get to be in our own space and just a space that we know, which is just awesome. Yeah, it’s our last year. It’s the last year for a lot of us, so it’s just so awesome that we get to do this, that we get to play. We want to go out there, we want to go and leave a legacy and leave with a national championship. That’s always the goal, and I always come with energy; that’s nothing new coming into the tournament or going in against conference teams, that always stays the same.”
Senior setter Hannah Sedwick chipped in a double-double, piling in 41 assists and 12 digs. She said it’s a blessing and a curse having so many weapons to pass to.
“It is challenging,” Sedwick said. “It’s definitely a blessing and a gift to have so many great hitters. And some games, it is like everyone’s on and it’s like ‘Well, who do I set?’ Everyone’s going to get the kill. That’s awesome, but sometimes, some people might be off. Some people might be more on than others and that’s when I really have to dial it in and be like, ‘OK, who’s getting kills for us? How are we going to get points?’”
Baylor started the match strong, as they jumped to an early 5-2 lead with help from multiple kills from senior middle blocker Andressa Parise. The Islanders fought back to make it a one-point set, but a kill from Skinner put the Bears up 6-4. As play continued, an ace from Skinner widened the gap again at 11-7. The two teams traded points, as two seemingly effortless kills from Pressley increased the Bears lead to 18-15. The Islanders went on a 4-1 run to tie the set at 19, forcing a Baylor timeout. After the timeout, the Islanders continued their run and went up two before kills from Sedwick and Pressley stopped the bleeding. The set was tied at 21 as the Islanders called for their first timeout. A big block from Skinner put the Bears at set point, winning it 25-22.
The Islanders struck first in the second set, taking a 4-1 lead over the Bears. Stepping up in a big way, van der Mark came up with four early kills to help the Bears tie the set at nine. Pressley hit back-to-back momentum, building kills to ignite Baylor and give them a three-point lead at 13-10. The Bears used the spark to take full control of the set, as their 11-2 run forced an Islander timeout at 20-11. The teams traded points before Pressley jumped out of the building for a thunderous kill. Baylor’s impenetrable front line closed out the set 25-12 as they took a 2-0 set lead.
A long rally started the third set, resulting in Skinner’s eighth kill of the night. Pressley soon followed with her eighth kill to give the Bears a 2-1 edge. The Islanders gained the lead off of a 3-1 run, but a kill from Harrison tied things at four. The teams went back-and-forth while Pressley and Skinner alternated kills for Baylor. Harrison also got in the mix, tying the set at 11. The Islanders went on a quick 4-1 run as they took a 15-12 lead. Baylor fought back, as consecutive kills from Pressley, accompanied by one from Skinner, led to the Bears retaking the lead 18-17. A 3-1 run from Baylor increased their lead to 21-18. However, the Islanders didn’t go quietly, coming all the way back to take set point at 24-23. Coming up big once again was van der Mark, and her kill tied the set at 24. Baylor finished off the set to win 26-24, taking the match in three straight sets and advancing to the next round of the tournament. van der Mark said she really wanted that set toward the end.
“I think I told Hannah five times to set me the ball and I would have been mad if she didn’t,” van der Mark said jokingly. “I knew I could put it down. I trust my teammates. I trust that they would be able to as well, but I knew that I could as well. So, I was a little selfish at that moment.”
The Bears will play Washington State University at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Ferrell Center. In the next matchup, head coach Ryan McGuyre said he wants to see better defense from the Bears going forward.
“Our defense, we got to make sure our defense is evident,” McGuyre said. “We weren’t stopping balls … defense is grit, defense is alertness, defense is an attitude, so we got to be able to bring that attitude tomorrow.”