Another match provided another dominating victory for the Texas volleyball team Sunday when the fourth-ranked Longhorns rolled past No. 14 Colorado State (25-20, 25-18, 25-19), in the final match of the three-day Texas Classic, their last home contest before the start of the Big 12 Conference campaign.
The Longhorns did not lose a set in their three matches in the Texas Classic and have swept six of their eight opponents. They’ve dropped just five sets this season, two in a victory against fifth-ranked Nebraska and three to second-ranked Florida in their only loss.
It’s almost become routine – give the Longhorns an hour and a half, and they’ll produce a three-set sweep.
A different player seems to step to the forefront every match for Texas (7-1). On Sunday it was outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame, who racked up 14 kills on 29 swings (a .414 hitting percentage), a career-high for the native of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Amy Neal, a Lake Travis product, added nine kills and five service aces for Texas. Chiaka Ogbogu and Molly McCage had eight kills each for the Longhorns while Chloe Collins distributed 33 assists and Cat McCoy led Texas with 11 digs.
Texas played from behind for most of the opening set as Colorado State’s huge front line forced the Longhorns’ hitters into errors. The Rams forged a 14-10 lead on the strength of five kills from Adrianna Culbert (who led Colorado State with nine kills) and owned a 17-14 edge before Texas found its stride.
The Longhorns ran off four of the next five points via kills from Neal and McCage and a service ace from Lauren Beard. A kill from Ogbogu tied the score at 19-19 and then Colorado State came apart, suffering three hitting errors around kills by Prieto Cerame and an ace by Ogbogu. At 24-20, the Rams’ Katie Craig hit a serve long to hand the set to Texas at 25-20.
The pattern of slow starts, even if the Longhorns eventually find a way to dominate, is a source of concern for Texas coach Jerritt Elliott.
“We’ve got to find a way to start better because falling behind in the first set like we’ve been doing could eventually catch up with us,” Elliott said. “Today, the girls recognized when they fell behind that they needed to be more energetic and focused. From the middle of the first set to the finish, we played very well.”
Texas never trailed in the second set, winning four consecutive points after a 3-3 tie on kills by Prieto Cerame, Morgan Johnson and McCage. Later in the set, Ogbogu smashed two straight kills to push the Longhorns’ lead to 17-10.
Colorado State never got closer than five points the rest of the set, with the winning point for Texas in a 25-18 final score coming on another service error. The Longhorns outhit CSU .429-.077 in the second set.
At 3-3 of the third set, Neal ripped off four consecutive aces to put her stamp on the match. She added another later in the set, pushing the Longhorns’ ace total to a season-high nine.
Texas returns to play Friday and Saturday in the Arizona Tournament in Tucson. The Longhorns will face Savannah State and host No. 13 Arizona on Friday and New Mexico State on Saturday.
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