Texas setter Ashley Shook (9) celebrates a block against Texas A&M on Sept. 20, 2019 in Austin. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Volleyball

With Rice in the rearview mirror and Big 12 play on the horizon, Texas sweeps rival Texas A&M

Posted September 20th, 2019

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On Friday night, Texas came back with a couple of comebacks.

Senior Micaya White celebrated her 23rd birthday with 13 kills, and Texas closed out its non-conference schedule with a 26-24, 27-25, 25-22 win over Texas A&M. Playing in a sold-out Gregory Gym, the Longhorns trailed by five points in each set. Texas rallied each time to secure its third straight sweep — and 75th overall beating — of the Aggies.

The sweep came two days after third-ranked Texas was stunned in a five-set loss at Rice.

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“I think with that (loss to Rice), you can’t think about it. You’ve just got to keep moving forward,” White said. “We learned a lot from it, and we learned that we have a lot of things we need to work on in the gym. It was a learning lesson, but time to move forward.”

Texas outside hitter Micaya White (1) spikes the ball against Texas A&M on Sept. 20, 2019 in Austin. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
In the opening set, a Lauren Davis kill following a UT timeout gave the Aggies a 23-20 lead. But A&M, which hit just .114 in the opening set, committed three straight attacking errors. Texas used kills by White and Skylar Fields and another Aggie miscue to complete its comeback.

The second set featured an eerily similar timeline as Texas A&M built a 23-18 advantage. But with the lead dwindled to 23-20, the Aggies committed two more attacking errors. The Longhorns went on to fight off two set points before a combination block by Ashley Shook and Molly Phillips secured the 27-25 comeback over the Aggies.

“I think the main thing we just said is just keep pushing them and keep putting pressure on them,” White said. “Once they were out of system, they struggled.”

Added Shook: “I think the serve at the end of the first (set) really got a lot better. I think that made a big difference.”

Texas A&M sprinted out to another lead in the third set. The Aggies, though, failed to finish once again. After A&M went up 15-10, Texas used a 9-2 run to grab control.

As the momentum shifted, Texas was fueled by three kills and an assisted block from Shook. A 6-1 junior setter, Shook was subbed in for starter Jhenna Gabriel in the second set. It was the first appearance of consequence for Shook since she was replaced by Gabriel during a win over TCU last Halloween. An ankle injury had also slowed her at the start of this season.

Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said he turned to Shook because the Longhorns needed a boost on defense. Shook is five inches taller than Gabriel. Shook, who said afterward that she was “ready to contribute again,” finished with 14 assists, two blocks and those three kills.

“I thought Ashley did a really nice job coming in for us,” Elliott said. “Slowed down their outside hitters a little bit and gave us some different looks (offensively) and really did a nice job.”

Next up for Texas is its conference opener against Iowa State on Wednesday. Elliott said his players will first get the rest of this weekend off.  These two days away from volleyball will be the longest break for the Longhorns since they began practicing on Aug. 10.

Members of the Texas swimming and diving team celebrate after Texas swept Texas A&M on Sept. 20, 2019 in Austin. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Notes:  The announced crowd of 4,328 was the 10th-largest in the history of Gregory Gym. … Sophomore middle blocker Brionne Butler remained sidelined with a lower extremity injury. … Senior outside hitter Hollann Hans led A&M with a match-high 18 kills. … Sophomore Logan Eggleston added 10 kills and a .348 hitting percentage for Texas. Gabriel contributed 17 assists.

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