(photo credit: TexasSports.com)
AUSTIN, Texas – No. 5 Texas Volleyball defeated Kansas State, 3-1 (31-33, 25-12, 25-19, 25-12) on Saturday in its last regular season home match to clinch at least a share of its fifth-straight Big 12 Conference title.
With the win, the Longhorns have either won or shared nine Big 12 titles and 22 conference championships in Texas Volleyball history.
Senior Amy Neal and junior Chiaka Ogbogu led Texas with 18 kills each, a career-high mark for Ogbogu on a .643 hitting percentage. Neal also contributed a season-high 15 digs for the Longhorns for her eighth double-double of the season.
Junior Paulina Prieto Cerame and senior Molly McCage added 15 and 13, respectively.
Junior Chloe Collins had 56 assists, 10 digs and five kills, hitting .556. It was Collins' seventh double-double of the season.
Sophomore Cat McCoy posted 12 digs, while junior Nicole Dalton added 11 and Ogbogu and Prieto Cerame led with four blocks.
As a team, UT hit .386 for its second-highest mark of the season and highest in conference play. It marks the 18th time this season that the Longhorns have hit .300 or better.
In the first set, neither team led by more than two until the Longhorns went on a 4-0 run to take an 11-7 lead. The Wildcats fired back with a 4-0 run of their own to even the score at 12. From there, the teams tied 17 times, neither team leading by more than two, when Kansas State won two-straight to take set one, 33-13. There were 22 ties in the set. UT had four set points, while KSU had five.
The second was a different story as the Longhorns jumped out to a 5-3 lead early and never looked back. The Horns kept a two-point lead before executing a 6-1 run to take a 15-8 lead behind kills from Neal, Ogbogu and Prieto Cerame. Texas continued the dominance, only allowing four more Wildcat points to close out the set, 25-12 and even the match at 1-1. (Continued below...)
(...continued from above.) The Wildcats jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start set three, but UT won four of the next five to even the score at 4-4. The teams tied again at 5-5 before Texas went on a 4-1 run to take a 9-6 lead. KSU responded with back-to-back points, but the Longhorns answered with a 5-1 run to take a 14-9 lead. From there, the teams traded points until Texas went on another run, this time 7-1, to lead 21-13. The Wildcats executed a 5-1 run late in the set, but it wasn't enough and the Horns closed out the set, 25-19.
Kills from McCage, Neal and Prieto Cerame gave Texas an early 6-2 lead in the fourth set, but the Wildcats retaliated with three-straight points to pull within one. The Longhorns answered once again with an 8-2 run to lead, 14-7 and did not look back. Texas closed out the set, 25-12 to take the match, 3-1.
Texas will seek the 2015 Big 12 Championship outright and close its regular season competition at Oklahoma on Friday, Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. The match will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.
Texas Head Coach Jerritt Elliott
On the match tonight: I think tonight was an important match for two reasons: to get a hold of the Big 12 Championship and honor our seniors and come away with a victory to really recognize these three. It's special what they have done for our program and for the university. They have the best winning record of any senior class that has ever come through, which says a lot. More importantly, the way they've handled themselves and made this program better has been really special, and I've just enjoyed having them around.
On how he approached the second set: The biggest message was the serving. I thought we were a little soft from the service line, and there was a lot of pressure coming from Kansas State. We picked it up and that opened up more separation. I thought our servers did a nice job of hitting spots with a little more velocity.
On the mindset of the team: I'm very confident in this group. They have a very unique chemistry, and they fight well together. They've grown a lot this season and when they click together, they're tough to play. Our passing has gotten significantly better.
Senior Kat Brooks
On living with the other seniors: We are around each other 24/7. We wake up and go to school together, go to practice together, and go home together. I wouldn't have it any other way. We're all best friends.
Senior Molly McCage
On Kansas State in the first set: They were just really steady. Our emotions were up and down, and theirs were even keel the whole time. Their defense was relentless, and we were just keeping up instead of pushing back.
Senior Amy Neal
On the emotion of senior night: I didn't try to think about it. In the past, we've seen how emotional senior night can get, and we knew Kansas State was going to be very good and very good at defense. We just had to come out and treat it like any other game and not let senior night affect it.