Longhorns look to finish strong during home stretch

Steve Helwick

Texas continues to trail Kansas in the Big 12 standings, but its eyes are cast upon a different team from the Sunflower State this weekend.

The No. 7 Longhorns (20–4, 12–2 Big 12) will match up against the Kansas State Wildcats (19–8, 8–6) on Saturday at Gregory Gym. Texas seeks its seventh straight home sweep in the penultimate match of its regular season.

“We had a good challenge with them the first time,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “They’re a disciplined team. We’ll get ready with film.”

But last outing, the match extended further beyond a three-set sweep. On Oct. 1 in Manhattan, Kansas, the two conference opponents traded sets until Texas emerged victorious in a sudden-death fifth frame, 15-12.

Freshman outside hitter Micaya White was crucial in delivering the road victory for the Longhorns. She posted a 20-kill, 16-dig double-double in the match. Additionally, she added five blocks and two service aces to her standout performance.

“Our staff has a ton of belief in this team, and it’s empowering to them to know how good they’ve grown to be,” Elliott said.

Although the last meeting was close, Texas is a completely different animal when playing conference games at Gregory Gym. The Longhorns are 6–0 at home in Big 12 matches, with two remaining this season. Texas lost just six sets in those games.

In the latest outing, Texas swept Texas Tech at home to rebound from a difficult loss at Iowa State.

“I really like the way we came into practice with a good mentality and positive energy,” junior libero Cat McCoy said.“We were just [having] fun, and that’s why we played so well.”

Kansas State’s in-state rival, Kansas, continues to lead the Big 12 with two games remaining in the waning regular season. The Jayhawks escaped West Virginia on Wednesday night in five sets. While Texas hoped for another Big 12 title, the team is starting to shift its focus. 

“We’ve just got to have fish memory — gone and out,” Elliott said. “They’ve got bigger focuses. Our goal is to a be a top-four seed. I think we have a chance of still doing that, potentially.”

Texas looks to pick up another win streak with a victory over Kansas State. The first serve is scheduled at 7 p.m. on Saturday.