By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer
AUSTIN, Texas — If every match in the Texas volleyball season is a step toward playing for the national championship in December, then the Longhorns’ 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 win over Texas State Thursday at Gregory Gym definitely will serve as a means to an end.
The match showed that Texas can be consistent without being flashy, that it can beat good teams by even when it’s not at its best and take advantage of an opponent’s mistakes with gusto and gratitude.
“I like the way we played tonight,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I thought we were steady and composed and our touches were really good. The only area we struggled with was with our serving ... and we fix that and keep spending some time on it.”
Texas had 16 service errors, contributing a third of the Bobcats’ total 49 points in the match.
It was the sixth-ranked Longhorns’ home opener and second straight match against an unranked team after it began the year with wins over No. 18 Oregon and No. 7 Florida on a neutral floor and a loss against No. 8 Wisconsin in the Badgers’ back yard. Texas bounced back with a sweep Sunday over High Point.
Micaya White was the lone Longhorn in double figures in either kills or digs, as she finished with a double-double, with 10 of each. Ashley Shook distributed 32 assists. Freshman Logan Eggleston and Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani added nine kills each and freshman Brionne Butler added seven kills for Texas (4-1).
“It was a little different schedule for us, starting the year on the road," Elliott said, "so it was good for is to be home and to have our freshmen get the feeling for playing in Gregory."
The Bobcats (5-4) had their five-match win streak snapped. Texas State’s Amy Pflughaupt led all players with 15 kills, and freshman Emily DeWalt posted 19 assists.
Texas led the match in kills (42-30), attack percentage (.379-.218), assists (36-27), aces (9-0), digs (33-30), and blocks (4-3).
The Bobcats, the preseason favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference, were up to the task, for the most part, but made crucial errors at the most inopportune times, something that just can’t happen against a team like the Longhorns.
Texas never trailed in the first set, driving away from a 5-4 lead by winning the next four points. The Bobcats tied the first set at 12-12 on a kill by Pflughaupt, but the Longhorns responded with kills by Butler and one from White to go up 20-15. A kill by Bedart-Ghani ended the set at 25-18, as the Longhorns outhit Texas State .333-.107 in the set and enjoyed a .474-.321 kill percentage in Game 1.
“It was really, really loud in here,” Butler said, "and I got really hyped up and nervous. The freshmen bring a lot of energy and new personality to the team.”
Eggleston, Bedart-Ghani and Butler all had kills in a 4-1 run in set two to grant the Longhorns a 14-9 lead. Texas State ran off the next three points to get back in the set, but back-to-back kills by Bedart-Ghani pushed allowed Texas to grab the momentum for good. Akill by White gave the Longhorns game point and Texas took the set at 25-19 after a service error by the Bobcats Micah Dinwiddie.
Game 3 was tied at 10 before Eggleston reeled off two service aces and a kill and Bedart-Ghani and White had kills in a 5-0 Texas run that broke the Bobcats’ spirit. A Bedart-Ghani ace at 17-13 pushed the Longhorns’ lead back to five points and Texas rolled to the win, finishing things on a Butler for a 25-18 final score.
“We’ve become closer as a team while we were on the road,” said Bedart-Ghani, who missed the Longhorns’ first three matches with a “nagging injury”. “I keep in constant contact with the coaching staff and I focused on getting better every day.”
Texas returns to the court Friday when it hosts 16th-ranked Kentucky.
“We will need to be better with our blocking and our serving because Kentucky is a better team,” Elliott said. “I really liked our defense tonight. Our touches were up and down but we were getting good swings and battling and talking care of each other.”