Part of the test faced every year by the Texas volleyball team is trying to stay sharp through a Big 12 Conference schedule that’s, quite frankly, anything but a challenge.
The second-ranked Longhorns took it to another conference opponent Saturday, this time Texas Tech, rolling to a 25-18, 25-23, 25-17 win over the Red Raiders before a season-high 4,147 fans at sold out Gregory Gym.
Texas (16-1, 6-0 in Big 12) is now 67-3 in conference play over the past four and a half seasons since the Big 12 schedule went from 20 matches to 16.
“We understand what we have to do to win and know that every opponent is a potential stumbling block to getting through the conference season undefeated, which is our goal every year,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We had a very tough and focused week of practice heading into this game, and we are close to where we want to be.”
Texas got 19 kills from Amy Neal on a .485 swing percentage, her best in the Longhorns’ six league games this season. Neal also added a team-best 12 digs.
Chiaka Ogbogu contributed nine kills and a game-high seven block assists as the Longhorns outblocked Texas Tech 9-3.
The Red Raiders (13-8, 2-5) were led by Sarah Redding’s 10 kills, while Audrey Fragniere and Lauren Douglass added eight and seven kills, respectively.
Texas never trailed and barely broke a sweat in the first set, winning 25-18 while forging a .435 attack percentage and going without a return error. Neal led the Longhorns with seven kills, including a ringing one to clinch the set, and Texas got four kills on four swings by Yazzie Bedart-Ghani.
Things were a lot different in set two. Texas Tech, down 7-2, won six of the ensuing seven points to tie the set at 8-8 and eventually forged a 13-10 advantage over the out-of-sync Longhorns. Later, with Tech ahead 20-18, a kill by Sarah Redding was followed by a combo block by Redding and Katy Keenan and then a kill by Alyssa Ybanez to hand the Red Raiders a 23-19 lead.
But Texas, which has dropped only one set in conference play and just eight all season, roared back thanks to its defense. Paula Prieto-Cerame and Ogbogu combined for a block and then Neal and Ogbogu paired on back-to-back rejections at the net to pull the Longhorns even at 23-23. Neal pounded two final kills off the hands of Texas Tech blockers and Texas slipped away with a 25-23 set win.
Tech had an early lead in set three but couldn’t sustain any momentum as Texas’ front-line forced error after error. The Longhorns eventually pulled away from a 7-7 tie thanks to four straight miscues from the Red Raiders, kills by Ogbogu and Neal and two more by Molly McCage that pushed Texas’ advantage to 19-13.
Texas returns to action Wednesday when it travels to Kansas State. The Longhorns’ next home match is Friday against undefeated ninth-ranked Kansas.