By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer
No. 17 Baylor volleyball moved on in the 2022 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship Second Round after its five set success over No. 20 Rice University Friday night in the Ferrell Center. The Bears went 16-25, 25-22, 25-23, 14-25, 15-11 on their way to advancing to the regional round.
“It’s really hard to end a team’s season, especially a really good one,” head coach Ryan McGuyre said. “They didn’t give us anything, we really had to go and earn it.”
Senior outside hitter Lauren Harrison led the way for the Bears (24-6) with 19 kills to go along with 10 digs. The McGhee sisters were right behind her, sophomore outside hitter Elise with 13 and senior middle blocker Kara with 12, also piling in nine kills. Freshman setter Averi Carlson finished with 54 assists and 11 digs in her second postseason contest.
Baylor won for the second time against the Owls (27-4), meaning over Rice’s entire season, the Bears account for half of their losses.
The feeling out process was evident to start the match as both teams swapped points back-and-forth, and neither separated themselves early on in the first set. The Owls were able to gain a 15-11 advantage midway through the set. Rice continued to push its lead to 20-13, forcing the Bears to take their second timeout. Baylor couldn’t get into its groove and it dropped the first set 25-16.
The Bears responded in the second set well, jumping out to a 4-1 lead, their largest of the match to that point. However, a 4-1 response from the Owls tied the set at five early on. The contest stayed neck-and-neck as play continued and Baylor led 15-14 at the media timeout. A few possessions later, a big Bears block tied things at 19. Baylor built on this momentum and captured the second set at 25-22.
The third set began in similar fashion as the first two, very close and the teams remained within a point or two of the other for the entire first half of the set. Once again, midway through the set, Baylor led 15-14 as these two squads were playing at such an even level. The Bears were able to separate themselves at 20-17 and looked to close in on a 2-1 match lead. They were successful in their efforts and came out of the third set victorious 25-23.
Rice came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth set, pouncing on the Bears immediately for an early 7-2 lead. Baylor roared back to cut its deficit to only two at 10-8, but the Owls responded with a 7-0 run to push their lead back to 17-8. Rice never looked back and forced a fifth set with its 25-14 set win.
Baylor forced a quick timeout from Rice after jumping ahead 4-0 to start the fifth and final set. Just over midway through the set the Bears took a commanding 9-3 lead. The Owls crept back into it, cutting Baylor’s lead, but the Bears were able to hold onto their advantage and take the set and match at 15-11.
Baylor will face the victor of No. 4 University of Louisville and No. 19 Purdue University, who square off Saturday at 5 p.m. The Bears will play that winner in the third round. A date, time or location has not been determined yet.