Texas wins big over Kansas to take control of conference

Claire Cruz

No. 2 Texas handed No. 7 Kansas its first loss of the season with a sweep Friday night at Gregory Gym.

The match was expected to be an intense, powerhouse battle, and it didn’t disappoint. Kansas had Texas on the ropes at times, but the experience and depth of the Longhorn roster carried Texas to victory.

“It’s a big win when you’re in a race to win the conference,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “More importantly, I’m so proud of the way we prepared, how well we did with the game plan and our overall focus.”

Junior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame dominated in Set 1. Cerame tallied seven kills behind big swings and strategically placed tips to start the match. Junior setter Nicole Dalton had several digs to keep rallies alive. Miscues from Kansas, including several missed serves and ball-handling errors, helped Texas. The Longhorns hit .517 as a team to take the first set, 25-16.

Kansas came out firing in Set 2, delivering hard hits and big blocks to fluster Texas’ defense. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 5-0 lead and controlled the early half of the match behind five blocks and quick tips that kept Longhorn passers out of sync.

But then seniors outside hitter Amy Neal and middle blocker Molly McCage took over. Neal turned in a six-kill performance, and McCage led a Texas front line that recorded six blocks. Texas rallied from a 16-12 deficit to win the set, 25-19, behind hustle plays, big blocks and great production from its veterans.

“In the second set, I just thought to keep managing my game and being smart with the ball,” Neal said.

Both teams came out fast in Set 3 and treated the capacity crowd to a plethora of big swings. Each team traded points for the first half of the set until Texas went on a 10-point run to put the win away, 25-14.

“We talked a lot in the locker room about taking [this game] like any other conference game,” Neal said. “We made sure to come out with the same mentality, don’t get extra hyped up because we’ve done that in the past. Every team is going to come out and play their best game against us.”

Cerame finished with a team-high 16 kills, and junior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu added five blocks. Texas secured the No. 1 spot in the Big 12, and the loss put Kansas at No. 2.

“I’m very lucky to coach this group of young ladies,” Elliott said. “They’re very talented, they’re fun to be around and they really are all about the team. It’s pretty special to be a part of.”

Texas returns to action Wednesday to face TCU in Fort Worth.