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No. 2 Texas sweeps Kansas State in final home volleyball match (of regular season, anyway)

Mark Rosner
American-Statesman Correspondent
Texas middle blocker Brionne Butler, shown during a match with TCU in October, slammed 10 kills in Friday night's three-set sweep of Kansas State. The night before, she was honored on Senior Night.

Brionne Butler is more likely leave her mark on a volleyball match with impressive blocking over the net than as a leader of Texas’ offense.

She is, after all, a middle blocker. But Butler was extraordinary on the attack Friday night, matching outside hitter Skylar Fields with 10 kills as No. 2 Texas swept Kansas State 25-19, 25-16, 25-13 in front of a crowd of 4,124 in a packed Gregory Gym.

The Longhorns have won 59 straight Big 12 home matches, a streak that began in 2014. Texas (22-1, 13-1 Big 12) has two remaining regular-season matches at Texas Tech next week.

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Butler hit a sizzling .667 on Friday, and the Longhorns finished with a strong .360. Butler said her success was the product of practice with setter Jhenna Gabriel, who had 27 assists (and seven digs).

“At lot of hard work and extra reps,” Butler said.

 Aliyah Carter led Kansas State (15-10, 6-8) with 12 kills, but the Wildcats hit just .156 after a fast start.

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Texas held its annual senior night on Thursday, honoring Butler, a first-team all-American last season, and libero/defensive specialist Sydney Petersen after a sweep of Kansas State. The celebration of seniors would have been after the final home match on Friday, but Petersen’s mother, Bobbi, is the head volleyball coach at Northern Iowa, which played a match on Friday.

“We tried to make it work, because they mean so much to us,” coach Jerritt Elliott said.

“It’s been a long season,” Texas volleyball coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We’re starting to gear up for the NCAA Tournament.”  The No. 2 Longhorns' lone loss this season was at Baylor.

The Longhorns’ only loss this season was in four sets at Baylor on Nov. 6, a day after they had swept the Bears, who are now No. 7. Texas committed 20 service errors against just four aces in defeat.

But Texas is in fine form. The Longhorns began the match on Friday ranked third nationally in hitting percentage, first in aces per set and 15th in blocks per set.

Butler is fourth in hitting percentage (.447). Melanie Parra is third in aces per set.

Petersen and Nalani Iosia served two aces each in the first set Friday, and Asjia O’Neal had one. The splendid serving was especially useful because the Longhorns were outhit .429 to .310. Kansas State made four service errors, while Texas had none.

Kansas State’s hitting accuracy didn’t last. The Wildcats managed to hit .000 in the second set, matching 11 kills with 11 errors. Texas hit .370, and O’Neal teamed with Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres on a couple of blocks for the Longhorns’ final two points.

The Longhorns outhit Kansas State .400 to .097 in the final set.

Texas won Thursday's match 25-16, 25-16, 25-15, with Fields producing 13 kills and a .448 hitting percentage. Logan Eggleston had 12 kills and hit .400. Gabriel was all over the court, collecting her second double-double of the season with 22 assists and 10 digs. Parra slammed four aces and had two more on Friday.

Butler left her imprint on senior night with five blocks and five kills.

As Texas fans have long known and appreciated, senior night, even with its usual spot after the last home match, doesn’t signify finality.

The program is too good for that. Texas is always seeded among the top 16 schools in the NCAA Tournament, therefore hosting the first two rounds at Gregory Gym. Sometimes Gregory is a venue for the next two rounds too, when Texas is a top-four seed, a good possibility this year.

“It’s been a long season,” Elliott said. “We’re starting to gear up for the NCAA Tournament.”