Cougars can’t close out sets, fall to Baylor at NCAA

Ryan

Washington State’s run in the NCAA volleyball tournament came to an end Friday.

The Cougars had a hard time finishing points at the end of sets, and couldn’t contain the Baylor duo of Avery Skinner and Yossiana Pressley in falling to the Bears 27-25, 25-21, 25-20 in the second round of the tournament at the Ferrell Center on the Baylor campus in Waco, Texas.

“I think in some of those longer rallies, they were able to hit a little bit more efficient, especially in transition,” WSU coach Jen Greeny said. “They have a lot of weapons, so good for them. They can count on a lot of different people. I think Avery Skinner did a really, really nice job for them moving the ball around and getting those points when they needed them.”

For the Cougars (20-12), their season came to a conclusion in this round of the tourney for the third time since 2016. Each time, Washington State has lost to a team ranked in the top 6 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

But it also was the sixth consecutive season the Cougars have advanced into the national tournament. The deepest they have gone in this recent run was a regional semifinal appearance in 2018 at Stanford.

Skinner finished with 17 kills, six digs and a .353 hitting percentage for the Bears (22-5), who are the No. 5 overall seed in the event. Pressley finished with 16 kills and a .250 attack percentage. Hannah Sedwick chipped in 45 assists and Shanel Bramschreiber had 15 digs.

Freshman opposite-side hitter Katy Ryan had 12 kills and a .500 attack percentage for the Cougars, who only hit .167 in this match versus the .325 they converted in Thursday’s first-round sweep of Northern Colorado. Sophomore setter Argentina Ung had nine kills and eight digs, and junior middle blocker Magda Jehlarova finished with eight kills and four blocks.

“(Katy) is a special player,” Greeny said. “We weren’t quite sure what we were going to get from Katy. She’s from a small town, not a high-level club, but just a great, great human being. And being 6-5 and left-handed doesn’t hurt. She’s had some really big-time matches as a freshman and kind of carried us at times, especially late in the season. We talk about we think she’s going to get better.”

In the first, Washington State reeled off five consecutive points after trailing 22-19 to have two set points in hand. However, Baylor fought them off on a service error and a kill by Pressley to force extra points. Junior middle blocker Kalyah Williams got a kill to give the Cougars a third set point, but Skinner finished a shot, Bri Coleman had an ace and Pressley got a kill to finish the set.

“You always want to take that first set if you can get it,” Greeny said. “We had set point, missed a serve, and they just kind of went on a run right there.”

Washington State rallied from a 7-2 deficit early in the second to tie it. After that, no team had lead larger than three until Williams had an attack error at 21-18 Baylor. The teams exchanged points from there on, and Skinner put the final touches on the set with a kill.

The third also was tight, with it being tied at 15 before the Bears started to pull away. Pressley converted two consecutive kills and Skinner added one to force Greeny into a timeout at 18-15. Pressley then finished another shot to make it a four-point edge for Baylor. The Cougars did get it within two at 22-20 after a kill from Jehlarova and an attack error on Skinner, but the Bears tallied the final three points from there.

“I just think they’re so athletic, and just have so many matches under their belts,” Greeny said. “It just comes down to big-time moments, and they were able to get it done.”

Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, dwalden@lmtribune.com, or on Twitter @waldo9939.

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