Sun looks to lead Texas in conference home-opener

Justin Martinez

Freshman Lexi Sun still remembers stepping foot on the 40 Acres this past summer as the new kid.

It was just three months ago that the California native put on the Texas practice jersey for the first time, met her new teammates and walked onto the burnt orange court at Gregory Gymnasium.

Now, just 11 games into the season, Sun is the centerpiece of a team with hopes for a national championship.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” Sun said. “I’m excited just being able to finally be here and play with the girls and the coaches.”

The 19-year-old outside hitter has emerged as a leader on the Longhorns, tallying a team-best 132 kills this season. She’s also the only Longhorn to rank in the Texas roster’s top-five in kills, assists, service aces, digs and blocks.

It’s this versatility that’s launched No. 5 Texas into the national championship conversation. But Sun and the Longhorns know their work is far from finished.

“It’s still really early,” Sun said. “We have a lot of room to grow as we get used to playing with each other, but I’m excited to see how far we’ll go by the end of the season.”

Texas leaned on its star freshman in Saturday’s road match against West Virginia after getting pushed to the limit in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers had their sights on a statement win after claiming an early 9-4 lead in the decisive fifth set, but the Longhorns responded to the adversity. Sun sparked the run with a pair of back-to-back kills, and Texas stormed ahead for a 15-12 victory to avoid the upset.

Sun finished with 13 kills and 11 digs on the night, marking her fourth double-double performance in her college career.

“It was a battle,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “When you’re Texas you don’t get nights off, but I was proud of how we responded in the fifth.”

Now, after three away games and almost 1,600 miles on the road, the Longhorns are back home. Texas is set to host a red-hot Baylor team on Wednesday in its Big 12 Conference home-opener.

The Bears enter the match on a seven-game win streak highlighted by an upset win over No. 9 BYU on Sept. 9. Senior outside hitter Katie Staiger leads the team with 264 kills on the season, and will pose yet another challenge for a battle-tested Longhorns squad.

“Wait until you see Baylor tomorrow,” Elliott said. “They can put up some offensive numbers, so our focus right now is to take it one point at a time.”

But the Longhorns aren’t flinching. Texas boasts a flawless 20–0 record in Big 12 Conference home-openers that dates back to 1996, and Sun and the Longhorns plan to keep the streak alive.

“We’re looking forward to keeping that record going,” Sun said. “We’re just focusing on tomorrow’s game and doing our best.”