With Big 12 title secured, volleyball focuses on improving

Nick Castillo

No. 5 Texas volleyball was in the same situation Saturday that it had been against Oklahoma in October, when the Sooners upset the Longhorns in a sweep at Gregory Gym. 

After three sets Saturday, Texas trailed Oklahoma 2-1 at McCasland Fieldhouse in Norman, Oklahoma. But, unlike their first match against the Sooners, the Longhorns (20-1, 12-1 Big 12) were able to overcome their struggles and beat Oklahoma in five sets. 

With the win, Texas clinched its fourth-straight Big 12 championship and gained confidence with the comeback victory.

“We wanted to get revenge after losing to them at home,” junior outside hitter Amy Neal said. “The way we came out — I thought we were up and down during the game, but I think we really stayed together as a team. We were really focused on that game. … We really just wanted to come out and play well against OU.”

The Longhorns will now look to finish the season off strong to help springboard them into the NCAA Tournament.

“Right now, we are just working on some areas that we feel we have deficiencies in,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “There’s that three-week tough period that we are kind of getting over, so we are trying to get them acclimated. But we have a tough schedule still.”

Texas’ first match after winning the Big 12 is tonight against Baylor. In their first match against Baylor, the Longhorns had no trouble running past the Bears as they swept them. Texas had a .473 hitting percentage, whereas the Bears only hit .047.

“They struggled here,” Elliott said. “They were a little nervous and uncomfortable early on, and we played at a high level, so the game was never really close. Based on some of their recent scores, they are playing well, and we will get a chance to look at them more today.”

The Bears have lost six of their last 10 games, but despite Baylor’s struggles, Neal says she expects the Bears to put up a good fight.

“I think they’re going to come out really strong,” Neal said. “I think all teams come out strong against us and make really good plays. I think they’re a really good team, so it will be a fun game, and [it’s] always fun to play there.”

While the Longhorns expect to get a challenge from Baylor, they are only focusing on making themselves better.

“We just want to focus on how we can improve and get better every day,” Neal said. “In practice, we need to go hard and not let up at all because every game is going to be hard, and everyone is going to come out and play well against us.”