Taylor Barnes (9) sets the ball against UTSA. (Baylor Photography/Matthew Minard)
Dec. 6, 2009
LOS ANGELES - Baylor rode spectacular floor defense to its first-ever second-round win in the NCAA Tournament over eighth-seeded UCLA 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 29-31, 25-19) on Saturday night in Pauley Pavilion. The Bears advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history, and will take on ninth-seeded California in Gainesville, Fla.
"I am so proud of these players tonight, and the coaching staff represented Baylor real proudly," head coach Jim Barnes. "Our theme for the entire match was to play fearless and play focused. They really bought into what we were talking about."
The Baylor back row played its best match of the season, while the offense did its part in keeping the pressure on the Bruins. The Bears racked up 94 digs in the match, more than 7.0 digs per set more than their season average. Comparatively, UCLA managed 78 digs. For Baylor, libero Allison King had a team-high 25 digs, while setter Taylor Barnes had 20 digs and Jordan Rice had a career high 19.
"We went into the match making things happen," Barnes said. "We were just on our game tonight. We knew they were going to serve us tough and we answered the call. Our serve receive, Katie, Alli, Caitlin, and Jordan really stepped up and gave extra effort on defense."
On offense, Baylor played one of its most consistent matches of the season, hitting .244 (64-21-176) with five players with at least eight kills and four with more than 10. Senior Katie Sanders led the way with 13 kills, while Elizabeth Graham had 12, Anna Breyfogle had 11 and Torri Campbell had 10. Barnes set the offense with 50 assists to go along with eight kills.
With the first three points in the first set, Baylor came out on a mission. Campbell started the match with kill, and later finished the match, but followed the first one with a block to get Baylor out to a 3-0 lead. After UCLA tied the score at 4-4, the teams traded points until Baylor went on a 4-1 run to open up a 23-18 lead. During the run Breyfogle and Sanders each had two kills. The Bruins roared back to get within 24-23, but a service error sealed their fate.
In the second set, it was UCLA that jumped out to the big, early lead with a 5-1 run. After a Baylor timeout the Bears ripped off 10 of the next 12 points on the strength of two kills by both Barnes and Ashlie Christenson. UCLA tied it a 13, but a 3-0 Baylor run with two kills by Graham put the Bears back in front. UCLA got as close as 23-22, but Campbell put away a kill and UCLA's Kaitlin Sather had an attack error to end the set.
Baylor earned its chances in a frenetic third set, but UCLA staved off elimination for one more set. The Bruins had the only three-point lead of the set at 19-16, but Baylor rolled up a 5-0 run to take a 23-21 lead. The Bears got three kills in row by Breyfogle. Facing two match points, UCLA got back-to-back block assists by Amanda Gil and Rachael Kidder, then took 31-29 set win a kills by Bojana Todorovic.
In the fourth set, Baylor took UCLA's best shot in the early going as the Bruins 6-4 lead was answered with a 4-0 Baylor run to make it 12-9. During the span, Campbell racked up two blocks, one solo and one with Graham. UCLA would get as close as 16-15, but Baylor's offense took over with three kills in a row by Sanders, Barnes and Campbell. After a Campbell and Sanders block assist, Campbell sealed the match for a 25-19 set win.
The win marked just the third NCAA tournament victory in program history, and the first-ever against UCLA. Previously, the Bruins had beaten Baylor in both previous meetings. With UCLA ranked ninth in the latest AVCA Top 25 poll, the win also marked the first time Baylor has defeated top-10 team in program history.