By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer
AUSTIN, Texas — There’s not a whole lot of difference between the top 12 or so teams in college volleyball, a group that shares the best players, best coaches and, traditionally, the national titles. But if there’s one team in the bunch that has consistent mojo over another, it’s Stanford over Texas.
That was illustrated again Friday as the second-ranked Cardinal rolled to a 28-16, 25-18, 20-25, 25-18 win over third-ranked Texas. It was the Longhorns’ second match this week against Stanford, and their second loss to the Cardinal, as the two squads played a rare consecutive home-and-home series.
The Longhorns fell to Stanford 15-25, 22-25, 30-32 Tuesday in Palo Alto, Calif. Friday’s match was the fourth straight time that the Cardinal beat Texas.
“We came out ready to play tonight and had a different mentality than Tuesday night, but Stanford is just a really good volleyball team,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “They put a whole lot of pressure on you both physically and emotionally. They did a good job of staying steady.”
Junior Micaya White had 11 kills and nine digs to lead the Longhorns, with freshman Brionne Butler adding nine kills on 11 swings. Yaazie Bedart-Ghani also had nine kills for the Longhorns (5-3).
Stanford (8-1), led by reigning NCAA Player of the Year Kathryn Plummer’s 18 kills and 10 digs and Tami Alade’s 14 kills, outhit Texas .315-.231 and amassed 10 blocks to 6.5 by the Longhorns. Texas is now 0-3 when losing the blocking battle this season.
The Longhorns struggled again with their serving, racking up 17 service errors without an ace after committing 14 service errors in Tuesday's loss.
“We are just putting too much pressure on ourselves in making sure we got the serves in,” said Texas freshman Logan Eggleston, who had eight kills but also three of the Longhorns’ service errors. “We were overdoing it, but we will go back to practice and make sure we get those errors out of our system.
Just like in Stanford’s win Tuesday, the Cardinal set the tone early on, winning the first set 25-16. Stanford out hit the Longhorns .333-.107 and had five blocks in the first set to just one for Texas.
The Cardinal led throughout the first set, breaking away from a 3-3 tie to win the ensuing four points on a Texas error, back-to-back service aces from Plummer and a kill by Meghan McClure. The Longhorns never got closer than four points for the rest of the set, and trailed by as many as nine, before Stanford finished off the set, fittingly, with a combo block from Plummer and Alade on a kill attempt by Bedart-Ghani.
The second set followed the same script, with Stanford never trailing in a 25-18 win that was not as close as the score suggests. A kill by Bedart-Ghani got the Longhorns to within 11-8 and another a few minutes later kept Texas in range at 13-10.
But McClure and Plummer reeled off consecutive kills for the Cardinal, making it 15-10, and the Longhorns never could make up ground, falling behind, 21-15, on a kill by Audriana Fitzmorris and 24-17 after an attack error by Eggleston. Stanford ended the set with a punctuation mark on a middle-of-the-court kill by Holly Campbell, putting Texas in a 2-0 hole.
“We played well enough to win the second game," Elliott said, "but we couldn’t get a serve in the court when we needed to."
The Longhorns played better in the third set and had a 7-3 advantage after a service error by Stanford’s Morgan Hentz. The Cardinal fought back to 13-11, but Texas responded by winning five of the next seven points with the help of three Stanford error and a kill by White at 18-13. Texas got combo blocks from Morgan Johnson and Bedart-Ghani and at match point by Johnson and Eggleston to win the third set at 25-20 and stave off defeat.
Texas began to show some wear from the effort to extend the match and that began to show early in the fourth set, when Stanford slowly put the Longhorns to sleep. A kill by Campbell gave the Cardinal a 12-7 lead, and the Longhorns never got to within three points the rest of the way, as Stanford won going away, 25-18, by outhitting Texas, .429-.208, in the fourth set.
“I think we played a lot better tonight than we did on Tuesday,” Bedart-Ghani said. “Our passing was good, but there were a few things we didn’t do to get the win, but we are capable of changing those things and getting better.”
Texas returns to action Wednesday with it opens Big 12 Conference play at Kansas State. The Longhorns’ next home match is Sept. 26 against No. 18 Baylor.