No. 4 UT volleyball turns up the defense to sweep past No. 21 Baylor

26 Sep By
Team Shop

Ashley Shook quarterbacked the Texas offense with 22 assists in the UT volleyball team's sweep of Baylor (photo courtesy of texassports.com).

By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer

AUSTIN, Texas — Those who tuned in late to the Texas Longhorns’ 25-23, 25-16, 25-15 win Wednesday over No. 21 Baylor at Gregory Gym likely would be left scratching their heads, trying to figure out how the Bears hung with the fourth-ranked Longhorns in the opening set.

Texas didn’t do much well in the first set except let Baylor beat itself, and that trend continued in the final two sets in the even-easier-than-it-sounds win over the hapless Bears. The Longhorns outhit Baylor, .333-.107, in the match, including a .435-minus-.026 in the final set.

Texas (7-3 overall, 2-0 in matches against Big 12 teams) out blocked Baylor, 12-3, had 33 digs to 30 for the Bears and has just eight hitting errors to 25 for Baylor, which looked like anything but a ranked team.

The match, played before a crowd of 4,123 fans, was the seventh this season for the Longhorns against a ranked opponent. Texas has not lost to Baylor since Oct. 27, 2001, when the Bears earned a five-set victory in Waco. Baylor has not even garnered a set against the Longhorns in Austin since 2012.

Micaya White led the Longhorns with 10 kills and nine digs, and Brionne Butler and Logan Eggleston added six kills each for Texas. Ashley Shook had 22 assists and Butler and Morgan Johnson had six block assists for the Longhorns, who have now won 21 straight Big 12 matches.

Baylor’s Yossiana Pressley led all players with 11 kills but also had 16 hitting errors and swung at a minus-.128 for the match.

The Longhorns, who have won the Big 12 championship the past seven years and own nine of the last 11 Big 12 titles, are off to a great start in defending their crown. Baylor is the only other ranked team in the league.

“As the match went on we got a lot better,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We made some adjustments and got our defense going and our offense improved, and Baylor made a lot of errors that were uncharacteristic of them.”

The Bears (9-5 overall, 1-2 in Big 12 play) came ready to battle and owned the early part of set one, taking an 8-5 lead on a kill by Pressley and then a 17-13 advantage on another winning hit by Aniah Philo. But as expected, the Longhorns responded, using two kills by Eggleston, another by Katarina Luketic and two errors by the Bears to leapfrog to a 18-17 lead.

Texas never would trail again. With the set tied at 23-23, Baylor uncorked a service error and an missed kill attempt by Pressley to hand the Longhorns the first set at 25-23.

After the Bears outhit Texas, .250-.185, in the first set, things were never near that good for Baylor again. The Longhorns rolled to the lead in the second set, leading, 10-5, after a kill by White and then 12-6 thanks to another by Morgan Johnson.

Baylor fought back to within 17-14 on a kill by Nicole Thomas, but that was as close as it would get. Texas, again helped by errors by the Bears, reeled off the next four points. Kills by Johnson and Luketic won points down the stretch for the Longhorns, but in the end it was another hitting error by Pressley at set point that ended it at 21-16.

Texas hit .409 in the second set, to just .103 for the Bears, which had a hard time keeping the ball in the court and dealing with the Longhorns defensive pressure.

As dominating as Texas was in the second set, it paled to the whupping the Longhorns put on Baylor in game three, rolling to a big early lead as the Bears continued to try, and fail, at attacking the Longhorns’ defense. Texas finished the Bears off at 25-16 and immediately looked ahead to the schedule in the coming weeks.

“We’ve focused a lot on bettering our touches,” Shook said. “We can be putting balls in better places to make things easier for us and allow us to run our offense. We are focused on playing Texas volleyball, and doing the things we do best.”

That was certainly enough to beat Baylor Wednesday. If the Bears are the best competition for Texas in the Big 12, expect the Longhorns to breeze through the conference season.

Four of the Longhorns' next six matches are away from home, beginning with Saturday’s contest at West Virginia. Texas then returns home to battle Iowa State Oct. 6.

Steve Habel is a senior contributing writer for Horns Illustrated. He has covered Texas sports since 1989 and was this magazine’s senior editor for 24 years. You can follow him on twitter @stevehabel .