If the Baylor volleyball team could bottle the fragrance – call it Eau de Efficiency — that it put forth in the opening set of Wednesday’s match, it could beat anyone in the country.
As it stood, the Bears were sweet-smelling enough the rest of the way to pick up their fourth straight Big 12 victory.
Powered by a potent first set that included zero hitting errors and a .714 hitting percentage, Baylor spurned Iowa State, 25-13, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21, at the Ferrell Center.
So, what’s that feel like when you play an entire set with no errors?
“It kind of feels like we’re unstoppable,” said Aniah Philo, who turned in a double-double with 11 kills and 11 digs. “The Iowa State team was down a few players, but that doesn’t really stop us from playing our best game. We take advantage of what we’re given.”
Now, Baylor (16-7 overall, 8-4 Big 12) wasn’t able to keep that flawless efficiency flowing the entire match. That’s tough to do. But Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre said it was fun to see for that stretch, to say the least.
“It was a combination of offense and defense working together,” McGuyre said. “So we played really, really good defense. Iowa State has been mixing things up the last couple of matches, so I really feel like, one, we’re one step ahead, but two, we made the plays. When they hit the balls where we said they were, we didn’t just dig them but we dug them in a way where we could run Shelly (Fanning) or get swings off them. So we had shorter rallies in that first set.”
Iowa State’s Jess Schaben relentlessly hammered away on her way to a match-high 26 kills. However, no other Cyclone player reached double figures in kills, while Baylor hit from all angles, with four players tallying 10 or more in the kill department.
Occasionally, the Cyclones (12-13, 5-7) just looked caught in the crossfire.
“It’s definitely an awesome feeling,” said Fanning, who smacked 16 kills and picked up nine blocks. “We work in practice every day to play an errorless game. I think going into that game, 10 errors or less was kind of our focus. That first set was awesome. We were able to execute the game plan really well, and setters were able to find who was hot, people were putting the balls away. Overall, it was just a fun feeling, and a fun environment.”
Yossiana Pressley added 13 kills and Gia Milana had 10 for the Bears.
Schaben hails from Defiance, Iowa, and she showed some defiance in fighting through Baylor’s potent play and lifting the Cyclones back into the match. As play progressed, the Bears also gave away more points with errors and didn’t hit with the same level of precision.
That was especially true in the third set, as McGuyre said the Bears “fell asleep on some of our responsibilities and adjustments.” In a near polar opposite from the opening surge, Baylor committed eight errors and hit only .100, allowing the Cyclones to steal that set, 25-19.
Fortunately for the Bears, their defense didn’t break. Philo, Tara Wulf (17 digs) and Pressley (8 digs) laid out for some sprawling rally-savers, and Fanning maintained her recent level of dominance as a monster-mashing middle blocker. The redshirt junior actually had the finishing point on all three of BU’s set wins, with spikes of varying degrees of velocity.
Fanning played with that level of authority despite getting hit with a stray elbow above her eye from teammate Milana on one block attempt. She ended up getting a bandage from the trainer and staying in the match.
“Shelly’s been phenomenal. Like, first-team All-American, brilliant, professional level,” McGuyre said. “She knows how to score, she knows how to manage her swings, she knows how to be available to hit. We wanted to run our middles as much as we could tonight, but when you look at how much we found Shelly versus Jaelyn and Nicole, she knows how to transition, she knows how to open up, her vision is just great
“I think even how she finished set one off, look right, throw left. She knows how to set up the kills, and that’s something we’re trying to help our hitters to do and understand. But it’s a pretty high-level thing.”
Baylor hits the road for its next two matches.
tarting with Kansas State on Saturday.