In the lead-up to the final countdown, Texas got a win.
Paulina Prieto Cerame registered 17 kills, and Texas swept Baylor in a tight volleyball tussle at Gregory Gym on Wednesday. The 25-23, 26-24, 25-16 triumph opened a three-week stretch in which the fifth-ranked Longhorns (19-3, 11-1 Big 12) will play four of their five final regular-season matches at home.
Wednesday’s win kept Texas atop the Big 12 standings along with No. 4 Kansas (22-2, 11-1).
“It just felt great to go out there and beat a team like Baylor the way we did,” Prieto Cerame said. “We’ve been talking about playing for each other and just enjoying the game, having fun and staying focused, and I think that’s what we did. It’s a good match for us, and we’re moving forward.”
Texas, 79-2 all-time vs. Baylor, hasn’t lost the Bears since 2001 but had to hold off a late Baylor surge to take the opening set. And things didn’t get much easier in the second set, which featured 15 ties and seven lead changes. Neither Texas nor Baylor led by more than two points after reaching a 12-12 tie and later were knotted 24-24 following a Longhorns service error.
Texas, though, took a 25-24 lead on a kill from Micaya White, and then Texas won the set on a block of Baylor’s Aniah Philo’s shot by 5-7 setter Chloe Collins and 6-3 middle blocker Morgan Johnson.
Texas never trailed in the final set.
On a night in which she led Texas in kills (17) and hitting percentage (.444), Prieto Cerame was credited with a partial block on the match’s final play.
“We never got rattled,” Collins said. “We just went back to what we do, and we came through and followed through with it. I think that’s what we need to continue to do through every point.”
Baylor (18-8, 6-4) was led by junior outside hitter Katie Staiger, who entered the match as the Big 12’s kills leader. Staiger, however, had 180 more attempts this season than White, who was ranked third. Staiger hit .234 on 47 attempts, and Baylor was held to a .139 hitting percentage.
“If she hits .234 with that many swings, we should be in the match based on our hitting percentage and how we can hold them,” said Texas coach Jerritt Elliott, who conceded before the game that Staiger would get her kills. “We held them down to .139, which is well below our average. I thought we did a really good job. Our defense continues to improve.”