Senior bailey Webster goes up for a kill against Penn State earlier this season. (Photo Jesse Drohen)
AUSTIN, Texas -- The sixth-ranked Texas Longhorns went the distance and defeated No. 12 Nebraska 3-2 (20-25, 25-19, 27-25, 21-25, 15-12) in front of the third-consecutive sellout at Gregory Gymnasium Sunday afternoon. Texas capped off its third comeback victory of the season and improved to 4-0 in five-set matches this season.
Texas (6-2) outhit Nebraska (7-2) .232-.223, led by senior Bailey Webster who recorded season-highs in kills (21) and points (23.5). Junior Khat Bell had her best hitting outing of the season, hitting .500 with 10 kills and zero attacking errors. Seniors Hannah Allison and Sarah Palmer led the Texas defense, each recording season-highs with 15 and 24 digs, respectively. Allison also collected 29 assists for her third double-double of the season.
Nebraska outside hitter Kelsey Robinson led the Huskers with a season-high 26 kills to go with a team-leading 23 digs and 27.0 points.
Trailing 9-7 in the opening set, Texas went on a 7-2 run to take a 14-11 lead. During the stretch, junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman scored back-to-back points with a kill and ace. Texas held on to the lead at 18-16 until Nebraska went on a 7-1 run for its largest lead of the set at 23-19. Nebraska capped off the first set 25-20 with a kill from Robinson to take the 1-0 lead.
Nebraska jumped out to the early 4-1 lead in the second game. The Cornhusker lead grew to four points at 11-7, but Texas fought back with a 7-2 run to grab its first lead of the second set at 14-13. During the run, Texas teamed for back-to-back blocks from sophomores Amy Neal and Molly McCage and freshman Chiaka Ogbogu. Neal served up an ace, followed by her second kill of the match to stretch the lead to 17-14 Texas. Texas reached its largest lead of the match at 23-18 with a Webster kill, followed by an ace from Bell. The two-time All-American Eckerman secured the second set win for Texas with a kill down the middle, winning 25-19 to tie the match at 1-1.
In the second frame, Webster led UT with six kills and zero errors after only one kill and two errors in the opening set. Texas was fueled by six blocks in the second frame, nearly twice their team average of 3.04 per set.
Texas took an early third set lead at 10-6. However, four consecutive Longhorn attack errors leveled the set at 10-10. The former Big 12 Conference foes would exchange points for the remainder of the set. Nebraska broke the 19-19 tie to take its first lead of the set at 20-19. Texas quickly took the lead back with a 4-1 run, featuring kills from McCage and Eckerman to push the Cornhuskers to set point at 24-21. Nebraska would not fold, firing off three consecutive points to even the set at 24 with a kill from Meghan Haggerty and back-to-back kills from Kadie Rolfzen. Tied at 25, Eckerman fired her fourth and fifth kills of the set to seal the second set at 27-25 and give the Longhorns the 2-1 advantage for the match. Webster and Eckerman each had five kills in the third.
Texas and Nebraska went back and forth to open the fourth set. With Texas leading 11-10, Nebraska went on a 5-1 run to grab the largest lead of the set by either team at 15-12. Texas would claw back with three straight points to tie the set once more. Ogbogu made it four consecutive points with a decisive kill down the middle to give the Longhorns the 16-15 lead. Robinson answered, tallying her 20th kill of the match. The kill capped off a 3-0 run by Nebraska to retake the advantage at 18-16. Nebraska would retain the lead and win the fourth set 25-21, pushing Texas to its fourth five-set match in the previous six games.
Nebraska carried momentum from the fourth and took the early 4-2 edge. Texas would rally and grab a 10-7 lead, led by multiple kills from Webster and Eckerman. The Longhorns would not relinquish the lead, stretching the lead to 14-11 before Webster sealed the match with her third kill of the set.
Texas opens conference play Wednesday, September 25 at TCU. The match is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.Central and will be televised by FSSW+. The Longhorns are seeking three consecutive Big 12 titles for the first time ever.
- Texas is now 6-2 on the year, coming off today’s 3-2 win against Nebraska … the Longhorns are 4-0 this season when playing five-set matches.
- Texas is 4-1 against ranked opponents this season.
- Texas Volleyball fans produced the third-consecutive sellout on Sunday, Sept. 22, as the eighth largest attendance in Gregory Gym’s current configuration of 4,213 filled the stands … the Longhorns have won all home matches in front of sellout crowds this season.
- The Longhorns provided a dominant effort against the Huskers on the net with 16 total team blocks … it is the second highest block number this season, topping 18 against San Diego on Aug. 31.
- Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott earned his 301th win at Texas and this 351st win of this career
- Junior middle blocker Khat Bell led the Horns with a .500 hitting percentage (10-0-20).
- Senior setter Hannah Allison became the eighth player in Texas history to tally 3,000 assists, as her 29 dishes brought her career total to 3,017. She also collected her third assist/dig double-double of the season (29-15).
- Freshman middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu made her home court debut and provided the Longhorns with seven kills and seven blocks.
- Senior outside hitter Bailey Webster recorded season-high numbers in kills (21), points (23.5), and blocks (5).
- Sophomore middle blocker Molly McCage notched a season-high eight kills, just two shy of her career best.
Texas Head Coach Jerritt Elliott
Opening statement: First, I want to thank our fans for coming out and setting history and making this the third straight sellout, and they were a big part of this win in this game. It’s great to have them behind us, and makes the college experience for our athletes great. It was a very tough match for us. I think we’ve playing a very tough schedule. We haven’t had a lot of breaks and we still matched up against a very good Nebraska team. We haven’t had a lot of time in this lineup and I think it showed in terms of the continuity of it. I was really proud of our group the way they responded and made plays when it counted and stuck together. They’ve been doing that all year and building confidence on that, and they’ve been winning the tight games. Now it’s time to get into conference play and get some continuity going and see if we can play at a higher level as we progress throughout the season. We’re excited for that challenge.
On the rotation: Looking at our sideout numbers, they were pretty good. We haven’t had a lot of same players playing good on the same nights. Right now, when you’re going through this transition stuff, it’s more about our transition swings. We’re not scoring at a high enough percentage. I think early in game one, we were one of nine. It’s an area we need to improve on, but we’ll improve on it. Our touches can get a lot better. It’s very similar to last year, but it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re playing these great teams, and you’re challenged every single night. This group is going to be really good, and we believe in what they’re doing. I like the balance with what we’re seeing. I think we got great balance with Molly [McCage] and Khat [Bell] for the first time getting them more involved. That’s really important and Bailey [Webster] really came along as the match went along so it was big for us to have those players play like the way they played.
On the fortitude of this team: Yeah, that’s what I was saying earlier. I think that when the game gets tight, they raise to a different level and concentration. They believe in each other and make plays when it happens. They put pressure on teams and teams have to play well against us. We’re not trying to do too much, but we played smooth at the end and didn’t give them any opportunities. We managed our game well and we were very pleased with that and in terms of the numbers, they’ve been good, and it showed.
On taking advantage of Nebraska’s errors in the fifth set: We made a couple of hitting errors, but we put a big block in front of them and made a block switch with [Sarah] Hattis and I thought she did a great job putting the ball next to Bailey [Webster]. We got some better transition swings as the match went along. Amy [Neal] was passing very well but not scoring, so we decided to switch a little bit more and get Bailey more transition swings, especially with not having [Haley] Eckerman in there. We relied on Bailey’s shoulders and climbed on them. Again, this group plays well in the crunch.
Sophomore MB Molly McCage
On the match: Coming in against Nebraska, we knew we had to compete. Every time we started out with a big play, they came right back with big plays. We feel like we needed to want it more and I feel like we came out in the end and fought a little more than they did.
On the momentum change towards the end of the match: We made a great play and made a great swing and they pick it back up. It’s hard against a team like that, but I think our team has the mental fortitude and actually continue throughout the match and look each other in the eyes and be ready to compete and pull through those kind of plays that they make.
On starting Big 12 play: We’re super excited. I feel like we ended preseason on a good note. We’re ready to get back to the Big 12, and really ready to compete because we have a lot of in-state rivals, and I feel like that’ll prepare us well for the tournament.
Senior OH Bailey Webster
On the momentum change towards the end of the match: I agree with Molly. Nebraska played well and I think it was going back-and-forth in every set. It was a high intense match, but I think we stuck together, communicated well with each other, and being able to do that and come together at pivotal points allowed us to win.