WVU volleyball falls in straight sets to No. 11 Baylor to open series

Gold and Blue Nation

West Virginia volleyball fell in straight sets to No. 11 Baylor on Friday as the Mountaineers returned home from a two-week road trip.

While the match ended in three sets, it was far from a blowout — the Lady Bears’ biggest victory came in the second set by five points, as the other two sets were decided by two and three points. Baylor’s win was muscled by Big 12 leading scorer Yossiana Pressley, who notched her fifth straight 20-point match.

“I thought we played pretty well for the most part,” said WVU coach Reed Sunahara. “The second set we had a big letdown, and it was tough to recover, but I thought we played well in the first set, good enough…for the chance to win, and then even in the third set I thought it was back-and-forth.”

The first set was neck-and-neck until the final point, but West Virginia held the lead for most of it. Adrian Ell led the Mountaineers to get a four-point lead, their biggest of the match, which they mostly maintained until they hit 21 points. Soon enough, Baylor came back and tied it at 22, ultimately taking the set 26-24.

“We’re always going to battle,” Sunahara said. “That’s what I’m proud of this team for, they never give up. We’ve just got to do a better job from the start as opposed to, hey, now our backs are against the wall and we’ve got to start competing and battling and all that stuff, so we’ve got to do a better job from the start.”

The Lady Bears followed that up by bursting out to a 13-point lead in set two, putting the Mountaineers’ backs against the wall. WVU fought back and made 10 points of that deficit up, but Baylor ended up taking that one 25-20.

The third set was a game of catch-up for WVU, as Baylor held the momentum and maintained a narrow lead. The Mountaineers did come back to knot the set up six times, but ultimately, Baylor pulled away to end the match with a three-point victory.

“We just made too many mistakes, and we just gave them easy points,” Sunahara said. “They’re a good team, and tomorrow night, we’ve got to go back and battle and see what happens.”

Ell was a Swiss army knife for WVU and led the Mountaineers with 16.5 points, 14 kills and nine digs. She has proven to be a productive addition for Sunahara’s squad after transferring to Morgantown this past offseason.

“She’s a great volleyball player, great IQ, works hard, very coachable,” Sunahara said. “That’s, to me, one of the best characteristics that she has. I love coaching her, and she adds a lot of value, she can do a lot of things for us.”

Natali Petrova added another 9.5 points on eight kills for WVU, while Briana Lynch and Kristin Lux notched 8.5 and 8.0 points, respectively. Captain setter Lacey Zerwas led the Mountaineers with 29 assists.

Along with Pressley, Avery Skinner added a double-digit scoring night for Baylor, notching 11 points to go along with 14 digs. Hannah Sedwick led the team in assists with 34.

The Mountaineers and the Lady Bears return to the court in Morgantown on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET for the second leg of the two-match series. In order to get a win, Sunahara said he and his team have to go back to the drawing board to fix the mistakes they made tonight.

“A lot of it is hitting, a lot of it is passing, and I thought they did a good job of exposing us,” Sunahara said. “But tomorrow night is a different night, and we’ve got to be better tomorrow night.”

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