Volleyball team fights off rough first set to down Kansas State

Jacob Martella

After Texas volleyball dropped the first set against Kansas State on Friday night, there was concern the Longhorns would repeat their abysmal performance shown against Oklahoma.

The Longhorns were outplayed in almost every area during the set, as the Wildcats silenced the near-capacity crowd at Gregory Gym.

“Give credit to Kansas State — they played extremely well,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “They only made one mistake and put a lot of pressure on us, and we didn’t deal well with it emotionally.”

But, the Texas team that came out for the second set took over the match, posting a .393 hitting percentage to win the set, 25-15, and never looked back en route to a 3-1 victory.

“This was an emotional match for us and a big match for us,” Elliott said. “I like the way we finished tonight.”

After a dominating performance at Texas Tech on Wednesday night, the Longhorns came out flat in the first set and found themselves in a 10-5 deficit. Texas eventually closed the gap to 16-14 before Kansas State went on a 3-0 run to push the lead back to five. The Wildcats closed out the set 25-16 behind a .419 hitting percentage.

During the break between the first and second sets, Elliott said he challenged the team.

“The only thing I said was that, ‘At some point, you guys are going to have to figure this out,’” Elliott said. “‘We can keep talking to you about this, but you are going to have to make that team dynamic and have the resiliency to be able to bounce back.’”

The Longhorns did just that, coming out in the second set and taking the momentum with a quick 4-0 lead. Texas kept the margin near four and seized full control of the match with a 5-1 run to take a 17-9 lead and eventually even up the match at one set apiece.

Coming out of the intermission break, the Longhorns again took an early lead, but the Wildcats fought to keep it close. In the first half of the set, Texas’ largest lead was four points, before Kansas State made a run to close the gap to 15-13. However, a 6-1 run from the Longhorns gave them a 21-14 lead that they wouldn’t give up.

The fourth set featured more success, as Texas jumped out to a 10-5 lead and closed out the final set, 25-16.

Junior outside hitter Amy Neal finished the night leading the Longhorns with 14 kills, 12 digs and a service ace. After dealing with a day-to-day injury, Neal said she’s been working with the coaches on managing her game.

“Since I’m an undersized hitter, it’s just not being timid because I need to go out there [and] be aggressive with every swing,” Neal said. “Using the block helps me out.”