One of Ryan McGuyre’s deepest desires is to give his players “the greatest volleyball experience of their lives.”
As far as the NCAA tournament goes, it was a pretty great start.
Baylor played with an evident effervescence and joy in taking down Miami of Ohio, 25-19, 25-16, 25-21, in the NCAA’s first round on Friday at the Ferrell Center. The match was Baylor’s first NCAA tournament experience on its home court ever, and the Bears delighted in their chance to perform before the home faithful.
“It’s a lot of fun and excitement,” McGuyre said. “With all the awards we got from the Big 12, it was kind of almost overwhelming with all the congratulations and all the support we’ve been receiving.
“We want to do this for the Lord and we want to make Him proud. But, it’s fun, because we get to share it with so many great people here at Baylor. Baylor really is family, and it’s the joyful times being multiplied.”
The Bears (24-6) will have a chance to keep the fun rolling when they meet Colorado at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center. The winner will move on to the Sweet 16 round of the tourney.
During a break in the action in the third set, Baylor libero Jana Brusek grabbed a towel and crouched to the court to wipe up a puddle of sweat. It was a fitting posture, because Brusek (19 digs) and the Bear defense seemed to cover the court like a tarp all match long.
“I’m not sure it was our sharpest or cleanest match, but the effort was there,” McGuyre said. “For us, it always starts with great effort, and then we’ve got to be a little bit more technical with some of the things we’re doing. On defense, Jana, 19 digs, awesome, awesome job.”
Redhawks coach Carolyn Condit said that one of the first things she read about when she started scouting Baylor was a nugget on the toughness of the Bears’ defense. Up close and in person, it was even more impressive, Condit said.
“When you play against them you understand that immediately,” Condit said. “You can’t find enough ways to put balls down.”
That was certainly the case early, as the Bears seemed to either block or dig out everything the Redhawks slapped over the net. Baylor rushed out to a convincing 15-6 lead following a tip over the Miami blockers from Tola Itiola.
Miami made some adjustments, however, and the Redhawks forced the Bears to work for their points the rest of the way. Miami put together a 5-0 run late in the opening set before BU’s Camryn Freiberg put the finishing touches on the set win for the Bears with a block.
The Redhawks stayed within a few points of the Bears for long stretches of the second and third sets, but Baylor kept coming at Miami like an octopus. Arms and legs everywhere.
“It was something else to see how well they hit around a block with such strong wrists,” Condit said. “I don’t even know if they needed their arms. … We’ve got some great hitters in our conference, just not as many on one team all the time.”
Yossiana Pressley, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, blasted a match-best 17 kills, including several where she appeared poised to hurdle the net and land right in the laps of the Redhawks.
“She’s pretty powerful,” Miami’s Meredith Stutz said of Pressley. “All you can do is put up a strong block, tighten your core and hope you get a couple (blocks).”
Shelly Fanning bashed 11 kills to go with four blocks for the Bears, who hit .267 for the match. Aniah Philo tallied eight kills and 13 digs, while Freiberg added five kills. BU’s freshman setter Hannah Lockin kept all the hitters well-fed with 36 assists.
Now Baylor will turn its attention to the Buffs, in an attempt to reach the second Sweet 16 in program history. Miami’s Condit, for one, thinks the Bears could be dancing in the tournament for a while.
“I think they can make a great run,” Condit said. “All the teams that do play really well on both sides of the ball, and serve and pass well. .... They’re not going to be as big as some of the other teams they’re going to face, but I’m a 5-4 person, I always think it’s possible to do anything.”
Stela Kukoc had three kills for Miami. She’s the daughter of Toni Kukoc, a former three-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls. … Condit thanked Baylor for inviting her team into its postgame prayer huddle, a gracious act the coach said was a first for her in her 34-year career. … Among the fans in attendance was former BU setter Dana Chuha, who played against Miami in the schools’ only other meeting in 1998.
Colorado 3, James Madison 0
Colorado junior Frankie Shebby swatted 12 kills as the Buffaloes eliminated James Madison, 25-21, 25-14, 25-12, in the other NCAA first-round game at the Waco Regional on Friday.
Colorado (23-9) will meet Baylor in the second round at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Buffs rebuffed the Dukes with a dominant effort at the net, producing seven blocks in the three-set sweep. James Madison (23-6) managed to keep things tight for a set, but couldn’t consistently locate many avenues to hit against the bigger Buffs. Colorado limited the Dukes to a .029 hitting percentage while pounding away at a .305 effort.
Naghede Abu ripped nine kills in 13 swings for Colorado, while all-Pac-12 standout Alexa Smith picked up eight kills. For JMU, Liv Crawley topped the team with six kills.