If Big 12 play is the main course on the menu that is the Texas volleyball team’s regular-season schedule, then the Longhorns just ordered some appealing appetizers.
The second-ranked Longhorns (7-1), who open conference play on Tuesday at West Virginia, will host No. 16 Texas A&M on Wednesday night and then No. 6 Wisconsin on Sunday.
“I told my team (on Sunday), now we get a really tough stretch here. There’s no rest,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I think with this team right now, we’ve got to show up every night. That’s what we’re stressing to them. … We don’t get off nights here.”
Since the Aug. 27 loss to No. 1 Nebraska, Texas has won six straight matches. Four of those have been sweeps. Outside hitters Ebony Nwanebu and Paulina Prieto Cerame are averaging 4.8 and 3.22 kills per set, and senior Chloe Collins is quarterbacking the offense with her 11.3 assists per set.
But on a roster in which Prieto Cerame and Collins are two of the three seniors, Texas has received a boost from its freshman class. outside hitter Micaya White and classmate Orie Agbaji, a middle blocker, have made 15 starts between them. Autumn Rounsaville, a libero who is less than a year removed from winning a state title at Dripping Springs, has appeared in each of Texas’ 27 sets.
Rounsaville ranks fifth on the team with her 41 digs; Agbaji’s 16 blocks is third. White, who has been named the Big 12’s freshman of the week in each of the last two weeks, leads Texas with 111 kills and is averaging 4.27 kills and 0.54 blocks per set.
“I think they’re getting a lot more comfortable about what they’re doing,” said Elliott, who also has played freshmen libero Claire Hahn this year. “It’s good progress for them.”
On Wednesday, Texas will look to build on the 72-23 lead it holds in its all-time series with Texas A&M. The Aggies are 6-3, and reigning SEC player of the year Stephanie Aiple is averaging just over 11 assists per set.
Aiple is a graduate of Round Rock, was the Central Texas player of the year in 2013. Elliott praised Aiple on Monday, but said the Longhorns did not make much of a push to recruit the niece of former Texas All-American Diane Watson because the team did not need a setter during its 2014 recruiting cycle.