LOS ANGELES — The Baylor volleyball is happy to be here, but the Bears like winning, too.
Despite trailing 2-1 after the first three sets, Baylor finished with a flourish to take a 16-25, 25-18, 17-25, 25-20, 15-13 win over San Diego in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday night at Pauley Pavilion.
Making their first NCAA appearance in five years, the Bears (23-11) will extend their run at least another game. They’ll play UCLA for the chance to advance to the NCAA’s Sweet 16.
Katie Staiger hammered 20 kills to pace Baylor, including several timely spikes in the decisive fifth set.
It took everything the Bears had to survive and advance. They closed the fourth set on an 8-2 run, sparked by some powerful blocks at the net. Camryn Freiberg led Baylor’s blocking prowess with 10. The fifth set also came down to the wire.
Earlier in the match, San Diego (24-7) couldn’t have been more efficient with its attacking. The Toreros hit .500 in the first set and .400 in the third, while the Bears hit a combined .117 in those sets.
But as the match progressed, so too did Baylor’s confidence and its execution. Aniah Philo (14 kills, 13 digs) teamed with Staiger to put some pressure on San Diego’s defenders, and Morgan Reed produced a match-leading 34 assists.
San Diego senior Lisa Kramer led all players with 21 kills.
If the Bears win on Saturday, they would tie the program’s deepest NCAA tournament run in history.