Texas falls to Wisconsin in five-set thriller

Leah Vann

Fans filled Gregory Gym from top to bottom Sunday to see No. 3 Texas take on No. 6 Wisconsin.

Every block, kill and dig brought fans to their feet as chants of “We! Are! Texas!” erupted after each point. 

But when Wisconsin stormed back to seal the victory after dropping the first two sets, the silence was deafening. 

“We made some big errors,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We had some opportunities with transition swings and we kind of just put our heads down and took poor swing after poor swing.”

Freshman outside hitter Micaya White and freshman middle blocker Orie Agbaji strung together a series of blocks to build the momentum early for Texas. Neither team led by more than two points in the first set until Texas went on a 6-2 run to take a 18-14 lead. The Badgers closed the gap at 20-18, but kills from White and senior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame lifted Texas to take set one, 25-21.

Texas got off to a hot 8-3 start in the second set and maintained control throughout. Despite nine service errors, the Badgers eventually tied the game at 24-24 following a four-point run. But the Badgers’ run wasn’t enough as Prieto Cerame closed the set with two consecutive kills, allowing the Longhorns to take the set, 26-24.

“We had spurts where we were really good,” Elliott said. “We just have to be consistent for longer periods of time.”

The Longhorns took an early 9-5 lead in the third set and seemed to be in control, but the team struggled to pull ahead when the Badgers came back to tie it up at 14 apiece. Wisconsin and Texas tied seven times in the third set, but Wisconsin went on a 7-2 to close it out, 25-23. 

“Wisconsin definitely stepped up their game [in the third set],” senior setter Chloe Collins said. “They did a really great job. I think there were just some moments during the third set that we just didn’t execute when we needed to.”

After a tie at eight in the fourth set, the Badgers began to pull away. Kills from Prieto Cerame, junior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu and White kept the Longhorns in sight, but they still the team  trailed by two or more points throughout the set. The Badgers finished off the set 25-21 to force a fifth set. 

The Longhorns started strong in the final set, taking a 12-9 lead. After reaching 14 points, the Longhorns had five chances to close the set — the fifth set goes to just 15 points — but failed to close the Badgers out. After tying at 18, a missed hit by Nwanebu and a defensive error gave the final set to the Badgers, 20-18.

“14-11 is all we can ask for,” Elliott said. “They’re the number six team in the country and there’s a reason for it and that’s why we scheduled it, to learn about ourselves a little bit and get ourselves in position to get ready for conference.”

The Longhorns will kick off Big 12 Conference play in Morgantown, West Virginia, this Tuesday at 6:00 pm.