Longhorns take down Cyclones as drive for five continues

Michael Shapiro

As the drive for five consecutive Big 12 championships continues, No. 3 Texas (13-1) defeated Iowa State (9-5) in straight sets Saturday, marking its ninth consecutive win and third win against Big 12 opponents.

For head coach Jerritt Elliott, Saturday’s match was another promising result for a team with both Big 12 and national title aspirations.

“We had some really good balance tonight,” Elliott said. “They have a good demeanor about them right now and came in really focused tonight.”

Texas got out to a fast start Saturday, taking a 10-3 lead early in the first set. But Iowa State rebounded with a 14-6 run to take the lead 17-16. The Longhorns and Cyclones fought back and forth throughout the remainder of the set, with Iowa State forcing Texas to dig deep prior to take the set 26-24.

“We didn’t pass well in that first set,” Elliott said. “But it was good to see us coming up with an ace and converting some points at the end.”

Senior opposite hitter Amy Neal was integral to the Longhorns’ attack in the first set. Neal came into Saturday’s match as the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, leading  the conference in kills per set and points per set. Neal came through in the clutch once again for Texas in the first set, with two key kills in the set’s last four points.

Texas settled in during the second set, looking more like the No. 3 team in the nation than it did in the first set. After struggling early in the set to the tune of a slim 13-12 lead, the Longhorns went on a 12-3 run to take the set 25-15. The defense led Texas through the set, holding the Cyclones to a hitting percentage of zero.

“We were pretty disciplined,” senior middle blocker Molly McCage said. “Our blocking got better and better throughout the set and it just took care of itself.”

While the Cyclones kept the Longhorns close in the game’s final set, they were no match for the Texas attack. Led by McCage, Texas claimed the third set 25-17, and the match 3-0. McCage led all players on the night with a total of 12 kills.

The Longhorns will continue their quest for another Big 12 title Wednesday as they take on unranked Baylor in Waco.