By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Freshman opposite hitter Allie Sczech arrived ready to play in No. 17 Baylor volleyball’s sweep over Stephen F. Austin State University Thursday night, but her game uniform will probably be washed by senior middle blocker Kara McGhee after the match.
Sczech and McGhee are roommates, and McGhee said the youngster has come along quickly on the court in a lot of ways — just not so much outside the lines with household chores.
But that’s OK, because McGhee said that’s part of the “big sister kind of vibe.”
“She definitely does silly freshman things,” McGhee said. “She can’t do her own laundry, so I typically do her laundry for her, which is kind of funny.”
The Bears went 25-13, 25-18, 25-15 over the Lumberjacks in the 2022 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship First Round, where Baylor hosted its part of the bracket in the Ferrell Center. Sczech paired a team-leading seven blocks to go with seven kills.
Sophomore outside hitter Elise McGhee rocketed 13 spikes of her own, recording a .455 kill percentage. And freshman setter Averi Carlson, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, continued her strong play with 37 assists and 13 digs, her seventh double-double of the season.
Head coach Ryan McGuyre said he’s “always just so impressed” with what SFA head coach Debbie Humphreys “has done with her program.” McGuyre said the Lumberjacks always make it tough.
“We play [against] each other often,” McGuyre said. “Her teams play hard and have great seasons. It’s getting harder and harder to have extended success, and they just seem to be good every year. I know they’re disappointed in it being over, but a very, very good team with a lot of live arms. I’m sure down the road we’ll see them again.”
The Bears (24-6) jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the first set after a Lumberjack attack error. The closest SFA got to closing the gap was when it trailed 6-3, but Baylor cruised to a 25-13 set win — its lead as much as 13 a couple of times.
It was much tighter in the second set, as the Lumberjacks trailed 9-8 roughly midway. The Bears created separation with four-straight kills going into the media timeout, capped off by back-to-back finishes from Sczech. The two sides went back and forth, and SFA drew within three points of Baylor at 21-18.
But two-straight spikes paired with a couple of Lumberjack errors gave the Bears the 25-18 success.
The third set was never close, thanks to a smooth 15-6 Baylor advantage following a sophomore libero Lauren Briseño service ace. Eleven of the Bears’ 15 to that point came off kills, a balanced effort all around. SFA was unable to get consecutive points the rest of the way, resulting in Baylor’s dominant 25-15 set win and overall victory.
Briseño had herself a nice weekend, as she was surprised with an athletic scholarship during a team white elephant gift exchange on Sunday. The squad was together for the NCAA Selection Show, and Briseño had no idea what her mystery gift was before opening it.
“I just burst out into tears,” Briseño said. “I truly was just left with so much joy. I’m so grateful to be here playing with this team, playing with these coaches. Just not letting a scholarship define who I am as a player, but just being eternally grateful for what I have.”
The Bears face a familiar foe in No. 20 Rice University on Friday. The match, scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Ferrell Center, marks the second time the two schools have met in 2022. The first time was a Baylor sweep in Houston on Oct. 12 over the Owls (27-3).
McGuyre expects the three-loss Rice team to be ready for revenge.
“If anything, it makes it more of a battle,” McGuyre said. “We know we had to play them really well to play them at their place. They don’t have very many losses on the season, and we’re one of them. So we’re assuming, if we’re in their shoes, they really want to get back and rewrite the script … So we’ve got to make sure we’re just as prepared as we were the first time, if not more.”