Texas Volleyball slams rival Oklahoma in straight sets

Evan Berkowitz

In front of a packed house, the No. 5 Longhorns swept rival Oklahoma 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-19).

The Longhorns (8-2, 2-0 Big 12) came out firing in the opening set against a sloppy Sooner team thanks to strong play from junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman and sophomore middle blocker Molly McCage.

Eckerman recorded six kills in the first game, sparking the offense, but the real difference was at the net.

Texas totaled eight blocks as a team, including four from McCage and freshman middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu. But it wasn’t just blocks — it was touches and angles, too, that prevented the Sooners from getting anything going offensively. Oklahoma posted a .000 kill percentage in the first game.

“We had a good game plan and put pressure on them,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We sided out 72 percent of the time. When we do that, we are going to win a lot of those games.”

But the second game didn’t go quite as smoothly.

Unlike the first set, where Texas led from the get-go and never looked back, this one was back and forth.

Despite just two team blocks and no kills in 11 tries for Eckerman, Ogbogu and
senior outside hitter Bailey Webster came up big in
the end.

“As the game goes on, our confidence as a team increases,” Ogbogu said. “They weren’t exactly ready for me. They knew where the ball was going most of the time, but when the ball came to me, they were caught
off guard.”

Game 3 saw an unusual Texas lineup — one without Eckerman, who struggled in game 2.

“[Eckerman] started out the match 3-for-3,” Elliott said. “Then the rest of the way, she was struggling and we weren’t getting production.”

Elliott went with freshman outside hitter Pilar Victoria and stuck with her the rest of the way.

“Pilar is one of our stronger passers,” Elliott said. “We have a lot of confidence in what she can do. Haley was struggling a little bit and that sometimes happens.”

Victoria’s six kills complemented Webster’s seven as the Longhorns completed the sweep.

“The freshmen played a huge role,” senior libero Sarah Palmer said. “They have been pushing everybody in the practice gym and coming out hard in games. They are very athletic and did a really good job in the frontcourt with Chiaka and the backcourt with Pilar.”

This was the 42nd-straight Big 12 home win for the Longhorns, and the team’s fourth home win of the year.

“Every time you play OU, there is a lot of rivalry in it, whether it’s football, basketball or volleyball,” Elliott said. “I thought we had some spurts playing at a very high level — meaning we are playing better.”