Blocks lift Longhorns to sixth-straight win in conference play

Steve Helwick

It was a block party in Waco on Wednesday night.

The No. 4 Longhorns (14-2, 6-0 Big 12) capitalized on a strong effort at the net to overwhelm Baylor (15-6, 3-2 Big 12) en route to a 3-1 victory and their sixth consecutive conference victory. Texas registered 16 blocks, in opposition to Baylor’s three. 

Sophomore middle blocker Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani captained the explosive performance, earning 10 kills and a career-high nine blocks. It was Bedart-Ghani’s second double-digit kill performance as a Longhorn. She also led the team with a .833 hitting percentage. 

“I felt really good out there tonight,” Bedart-Ghani said. “My teammates really helped me and gave me a lot of support.”

Bedart-Ghani, who recently transitioned from the outside hitter position, played a key role in closing out the match for the Longhorns. The 6-foot-4-inch sophomore denied Baylor at the center of the net twice, resulting in the final two points that helped propel Texas to a 25-18 victory in the fourth set.

“I feel better with more practice,” Bedart-Ghani said. “[The position change] hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. I have a little bit more to worry about on the blocking front and don’t have as much time to hit … the vision and angles are a little different, but I’m really enjoying it.”

Baylor rattled off the match’s first three points before Texas eventually roared back to lead the first set 18-17. But service errors cost the Longhorns the first set, 25-21.

Texas quickly stormed in the second set and took control for the rest of the match. Baylor never eclipsed the 18-point mark after the initial game. In total, the burnt orange posted 15 more kills than the Bears, while receiving 15 fewer attack errors — key elements behind the team’s dominance in the last three sets.

The Longhorns outscored Baylor by 19 points in the match, but grossed 13 service errors in contrast to Baylor’s four. Four of the Longhorns’ 13 service errors occurred in the initial set, an issue head coach Jerritt Elliott will have to repair going forward in Big 12 play. 

Freshman outside hitter Micaya White and junior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu tied for the lead in kills for Texas with 16 apiece. The duo, using cross-court kills to conquer the Baylor defense, combined for 14 digs and five blocks, contributing to a solid defensive effort.

For Baylor, junior outside hitter Katie Staiger excelled with a double-double. The Big 12 leader in kills per set acquired a game-high 25 kills and 10 digs in the match.

The difficulty of Texas’ schedule has amplified since the start of Big 12 play. The Longhorns are six games into conference play without a sweep, but still stand undefeated in the Big 12.

Texas takes the court again next Wednesday against TCU at Gregory Gym, where play begins at 7 p.m.