Longhorns overcome shaky start to beat West Virginia

Leah Vann

It took a while for No. 5 Texas (9–2, 1–0 Big 12) to find its groove in its first Big 12 match against West Virginia (8–6, 0–1 Big 12).  

Shorthanded with senior setter Chloe Collins out with an illness, senior defensive specialist Nicole Dalton moved positions to take her place. The Longhorns struggled to regain their chemistry early, dropping the first set and battling out the second. 

But Texas found its rhythm as the match went on. The team took the final three sets, jump-starting its conference season with a 3–1 win. 

West Virginia controlled the first set and took an early 10–6 lead. A setter dunk by Dalton boosted the Longhorns to a 3-point run to tie the game at 10–10 before West Virginia re-claimed the lead, 11-10. 

The tie-breakers became a common theme for the Mountaineers in the first contest: the Longhorns caught up nine more times, only to fall back into a deficit. Unable to overcome the tiebreakers, Texas dropped the first set, 26–24. 

The back-and-forth play continued in the second set — the Longhorns once again struggled to take control and tied the Mountaineers 16 times. However, Texas overcame those hurdles while cleaning up its serving: The team only had two service errors compared to the first set’s five. Kills by freshman outside hitter Micaya White and senior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame helped the Longhorns pull ahead late in the match, aiding in the 28-26 Texas victory. 

The Longhorns seized control in the third set with an early 4-point lead to bring the score ton 11-7 — the largest lead for either team in the match. White shifted her attack strategy to tipping to avoid hitting the ball too long, while Dalton excelled at setting and freshman middle blocker Orie Agbaji racked up blocks. The Longhorns finished the set without any service errors to earn a 25-18 victory. 

Texas jumped out to an early 10–5 lead with an average kill percentage of .300 in the fourth and final set. The team kept its momentum throughout the game and closed out the Mountaineers, 25-15. 

Dalton came close to recording a double-double in the match, finishing off with 41 assists and nine digs. Junior libero Cat McCoy accumulated 15 digs and White also neared a double-double with nine digs to top off her 18 kills. Agbaji recorded a team and season-high nine blocks.

The Longhorns return home on Saturday looking to continue their hot start in conference play with a matchup against No. 8 Kansas. Play begins at 7 p.m. at Gregory Gym.