Texas volleyball team celebrates a point against Kansas during a match at Gregory Gym Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Volleyball

Texas beats Kansas in a nationally-ranked volleyball match

Posted September 24th, 2016

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No. 5 is still No. 1.

Freshman Micaya White and junior Ebony Nwanebu combined for 42 kills, and Texas treated an announced crowd of 4,032 at Gregory Gym to a 27-25, 25-16, 18-28, 25-19 win over Kansas on Saturday night.

Texas (10-2) entered the match as the fifth-ranked team in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s national poll, and its beating of the other highly-regarded team from the Big 12 — No. 8 Kansas (12-2)  — helped Texas maintain its front-runner status in the conference.

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Texas has compiled a 78-4 record and five conference championships against Big 12 opponents since 2011. The Longhorns are 2-0 this fall.

“(Head coach Jerritt Elliott) always says that everyone is going to give us their best shot,” Nwanebu said. “We know to not go out and take anything lightly. A win over Kansas tonight was a big deal for us.”

Texas fell into an early hole in the opening set, but the Longhorns battled back to beat Kansas. After surviving 20-15 and 23-19 deficits and two set points, Texas used a kill by White and an attacking error by the Jayhawks to secure a 27-25 win.

“We said before the game that we weren’t going to lose on our home court anymore,” said Nwanebu, whose team had its 20-match winning streak at Gregory Gym snapped by Wisconsin on Sept. 18. “When we were down by that much, Chloe (Collins) pulled us all in the huddle and was, like, ‘We are not losing this first set.'”

Texas got off to the quick start in the second set, and the Longhorns converted a 10-2 lead into a 25-16 set victory. Kansas avoided a sweep with a 25-18 win in the third set, but Texas secured the match with a 25-19 decision in the fourth.

Texas senior Paulina Prieto Cerame recorded five of her 12 kills in the match-clinching set, but White and Nwanebu were the standouts on the stat sheet. White hit .348, and two two-time Big 12 Freshman of the Week’s 22 kills were just one off of a career high. Nwanebu contributed 20 kills on 35 attempts.

White and Nwanebu were guided offensively by Collins, a senior setter who missed Texas’ 3-1 win over West Virginia on Sept. 20 with an undisclosed illness. Senior Nicole Dalton collected 41 assists in Collins’ absence, but Collins returned with 52 assists on Saturday night.

“Nicole did a phenomenal job on Tuesday,” said White, who noted the biggest difference between the senior setters was the height of the sets since Dalton is seven inches taller than Collins. “(Chloe) always gives me a look to tell me ‘let’s go,’ so just having that back again was great.”

Kansas was led by juniors Madison Rigdon and Kelsie Payne, who respectively contributed 20 and 18 kills. Rigdon is a 2014 graduate of Pflugerville High, while Payne attended Connally.

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