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Baylor Volleyball

No. 17 Baylor Volleyball Advances to Sweet 16 in Five-Set Thriller

December 4, 2022

WACO, Texas -- Senior Lauren Harrison went for her fourth double-double of the season to lead No. 17 Baylor to a five-set win (16-25, 25-22, 25-23, 14-25, 15-11) over No. 20 Rice to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16, on Friday night at the Ferrell Center.

Baylor (25-6) rode the strong performance from Harrison and the combination of Elise and Kara McGhee to the win, which saw Baylor claim the second, third and fifth sets to secure the win. Harrison had 19 kills and 10 digs, adding one block while hitting .333.

The Bears got a second-consecutive double-double from Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year Averi Carlson, who had a career-high tying 54 assists and added 11 digs. A night after setting a Baylor NCAA Tournament record with seven blocks, freshman Allie Sczech again went for seven stuffs, but saw the record shattered by a nine-block night from Kara McGhee. Elise McGhee finished with 13 kills and two blocks, while Kara McGhee had 12 kills to go with her record-setting nine blocks.

Libero Lauren Briseno had a team-leading 21 digs. Mallory Talbert finished with nine kills.

The Bears hit .243 in the win, with two service aces and 11 blocks.

The champions of Conference USA, Rice (27-4) hit .289 and was led by the dynamic team of fifth-year seniors Carly Graham and Anota Adekunle. Graham, who has won three consecutive C-USA Setter of the Year awards, had 56 assists and seven digs, adding three kills. Adekunle had a match-best 22 kills, hitting .419.

The tilt was a rematch of an Oct. 12 matchup in Houston between the two teams, a 3-0 Baylor sweep.

Baylor will advance to face the winner of the Louisville Sub-Regional, which has featured wins on Friday night – the first day of the two-day regional – from top-seeded and No. 4 Louisville and No. 19 Purdue.

The win marks a fourth-consecutive trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the Bears, who have competed in seven straight NCAA Tournaments. Baylor advanced to its first Final 4 in program history in 2019, lost in the regional semifinal at Nebraska in the 2020 tournament and fell vs. Minnesota last year in the regional semifinal.

The Owls separated in the first set, taking a 12-8 lead after the match was evened at 7-7. The lead grew to 21-13 and Rice was able to put away the game 25-16 for an early 1-0 lead. The Owls hit .314 and the Bears were held to a .188 hitting percentage in the first set.

In the second set, the score went to 9-9 before the Owls notched three of the next four points for a 12-10 lead. After an Elise McGhee kill evened the game at 17, Rice scored the next two for a 19-17 lead and forced a timeout from Baylor Coach Ryan McGuyre. Baylor responded to even the set at 19 and then after falling behind 21-19 and following a second timeout from the Bears, Baylor ripped off five consecutive points to take a 24-21 lead and prompt a Rice timeout. Lauren Harrison’s kill clinched the set for the Bears, 25-22. Baylor bounced back in the second set to hit .297, holding Rice to .184.

Baylor trailed 13-11 midway through the third set and then scored four of the next five points to take a 15-14 lead into the media timeout. The Baylor lead grew to 20-17 and after it narrowed to 21-20, the Bears scored three of four points to take a 24-21 lead and finished off the set at 25-23.

Rice took control of the fourth set with a 6-0 run to take an 8-2 lead early in the game. The lead grew to 19-9 late in the set and the Owls secured the fourth, 25-14 to force a fifth set.

In the fifth, the Bears scored the first four points of the game and took a 6-1 lead after a block from Kara McGhee. The Owls closed the lead to 13-10 after an Adekunle kill but the Bears were able to get two of the last three points, with kills from Kara McGhee and the winner from Harrison, to clinch the win.

Baylor Head Coach Ryan McGuyre

Opening Statement…

“What an amazing team Rice is. Just what Jenny does with that group and how hard they fought tonight. A lot different team than what we saw when we were at their place. Most certainly, all of our players would say it took everything we've got to get through the match tonight. I thought some players who maybe struggled for them yesterday really stepped up and played well. I think, for us, of the three sets we won I never felt we were in control of any of them. So it just came down to the end. We had a good start in the fifth set to get it going. I think when you do it right both teams finish emotionally exhausted in a five-set battle like that. I know it's always disappointing to be on either end when it ends that way, but love my team's heart and character and how they started the fifth set, after just probably being demoralized a little bit in that fourth set. Then we were able to make some adjustments.

“We talk about compartmentalizing stuff. Kara was huge down the stretch, Lauren was huge down the stretch, Allie Sczech was huge, it was a good team effort. Our players were asked to do some things that maybe we weren't doing as often, because Rice was defending the traditional stuff we were doing. A few little wrinkles there at the end and then we were able to go back to some of our strengths. It was good. Proud of our team effort. It was a long day for me today, and I'm blessed with an amazing staff who do a good job of preparing our girls.”

On digging out of it in the second set…

“It really is. The strength and character of this team shine through. It's so hard to end a team's season, especially when they're really good. We have our fifth-year seniors, but they have a couple of really seasoned ones as well. They didn't give us anything at all. I felt like we really had to earn it. Had to pass down the stretch, had to swing down the stretch. Just the character from our young players. Averi is a setter, and I was asking her to set some sets we should probably practice a little more. ... But, ultimately, this team trusts each other. Briseño made some great digs down the stretch. Such a fun team to coach. They just play so free, and adjust when needed. You don't have to worry about managing emotions.”

On opening the tournament at home…

“I think that was huge, too. Rice and us were on the bubble, and we did some work early. Our sport comes down to one or two points. If we don’t pull out the five-setter at home against Oklahoma, maybe we’re on the road. If we don’t recover and finish off K-State well after losing to Texas, maybe we’re not hosting. If we don’t beat Wisconsin in five sets after being in a similar match like this back in August, maybe we’re not hosting. It’s huge because our fans are great. The energy was great. Kara talks about multiplying the joy, so we get to multiply it with a bunch of beautiful people here in the Waco community.”

On the turn into the fifth set…

“It’s difficult, but not so when you have a resilient team and you have a game plan. We say all the time, you’ve got to weather the storms. So, definitely a storm crashed on us in the 4th set. But our principles are, we’re going to stay the course. The best way to get through it is to tackle it head-on. We don’t want it easy, we don’t want excuses. We don’t want it to get easier from our opponents. We can’t abandon ship, and that’s what this team is really good at is not abandoning ship in those storms. But there’s got to be a real change, or we’re going to sink. So, we’re going to stick together, but we’re going to make some real changes. And the change was multiplying the joy, it was being good on the blocks, it was being a little more aggressive on our hits. Maybe one degree tougher on our serves and we really talked about wanting to swing for edges a little bit more. And that was different than what we were doing most of the match. So, it made it a little bit more difficult to defend.”

Baylor Outside Hitter Lauren Harrison

On the match…

“It felt pretty good. But at the end of the day I was just excited that our season is continuing, and that was the most important thing.”

On being a service target…

“I think it’s been happening a lot this season, so I’ve gotten a lot of practice working with it. And then in practice, we work on it a lot. And in my head, I’m just saying, pass for the middles, pass for the middles. And if I’m passing for the middles and it’s a good pass, then the offense can be run efficiently.”

Baylor Middle Blocker Kara McGhee

On the match…

“We kind of talked about it in the huddle, but our team does really good when we're playing with joy. Sometimes, a lot of times, that has to come from one great play with momentum and you can just carry that on.”

On team blocks…

“I think getting a good block it just naturally brings a lot of momentum. So, that’s huge. I also think it does the flip side on the other team. it’s just really frustrating. So, having a bunch of those, 11, helps change the game, for sure.”

Rice Head Coach Genny Volpe

Opening Statement…

“Congrats to Baylor, it was a hell of a fight and I’m just really proud of this team for how we executed. I thought we executed at a high level and they followed the game plan, they did everything we asked of them and more. Just like I told them in the locker room, I think they inspired a bunch of people in this gym and anyone that was here could see a team that never gave up.  They fight all the time, they play for each other, they’re talented but their talent only takes you so far. There’s just so much more to this group and I’m very very proud of them. That was a tough loss for us to take, we wanted that really bad so this hurts a lot, but congrats to Baylor.”

On the match against Baylor in October vs. now…

“We had a bad day that day and Baylor played extremely well. It was just a bad combination for us. Even just looking at the stat sheet right now, we came out on top in pretty much every category, except blocks by 3.5. I think that Baylor is a tough opponent, we match up well with each other. If we play defense the way I know we can play defense then I knew the odds would go in our favor, and I think we pretty much did as much as we could defensively. They said there was a point here, a point there that didn’t go our way. But I think what this team has done consistently is try to get this much better every day. We’re no doubt a better team today than we were back in October, and that’s the way it should be. If you’re focused, if you’re doing things the right way then you’re no doubt getting better every single day. You’re not just being passive or being accepting of the wins and that kind of thing. And that’s what makes me really proud of this group, that they never stopped trying to improve upon the day before.”

On fifth-year seniors Carly Graham and Anota Adekunle…

“These two have pretty much helped change Rice Volleyball for the better. It’s been an honor to coach them, they are two of the most talented volleyball players we’ve ever had but also on top of that they are amazing people, teammates and leaders. I told them in the locker room before we came out here that I’m so thankful they chose to stay at Rice for their fifth year, and I don’t even think I could put into words how much they’ve impacted me and this program. Anyone who has watched our program throughout the years will remember these two for a very long time and the impact they made on their teammates will last forever.”

Rice Setter Carly Graham

On the momentum in the fifth set…

“We were fighting for each other for every point. Some balls just didn’t go our way and we kept fighting through it and every single point we were going after it, and just fighting for one another. That’s why we can walk out of here with our shoulders back and our heads held high and feel proud of ourselves. We left everything out there and it’s like Genny said in the locker room, that’s the proudest loss that could have possibly happened because we truly gave every single point for each other.”

On the energy from the first set…

“We talked about it in the locker room before. We knew we had to be fearless and go after it and that’s such a great team. And if we were being safe we weren’t going to get the result we wanted. We had to go for it and I think that’s how we started out the match and we tried to keep doing that the entire match.”

Rice Middle Blocker Anota Adekunle

On the energy from the first set…

“We were going for it. We knew that going into this game we were going to have to give it everything that we had and that’s what we did in the first set. For everyone that was out there on the court, we did it for each other and tried our best to execute the game plan.”

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No. 17 Baylor Volleyball Advances to Sweet 16 in Five-Set Thriller

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