Texas to host Fairfield in opening round of NCAA Tournament

Justin Martinez

After waltzing their way through the regular season, the Longhorns are ready for the biggest dance of the year.

Texas (24–2, 16–0) is set to open the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday with a home match against a red-hot Fairfield squad (25–6, 18–0) at 7 p.m.

The Stags enter Friday’s match on a 21-game win streak thanks to the strong play of outside hitter Skyler Day. The senior posted a team-high 354 kills in the regular season, propelling Fairfield to its third straight MAAC Championship.

The Longhorns boast an undefeated program record of 30–0 in first-round contests of the NCAA tournament. But Texas has no intentions of letting its guard down come Friday night.

“It’s going to take not overlooking any team,” senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu said. “Where people get in trouble is when they start looking ahead, but you just have to focus on who you’re playing next.”

Texas also enters the match with some hardware of its own. The Longhorns enter postseason play as the Big 12 champions, an honor they secured with a perfect 16–0 record in conference play this season.

The burnt orange have been clicking on all cylinders as of late, riding an 18-game win streak behind the play of Ogbogu. The Coppell native recorded 230 kills and a conference-best 160 blocks during the regular season, earning her the Big 12 player of the year award in
the process.

Ogbogu has also been aided by the dynamic freshman duo of outside hitter Lexi Sun and setter Ashley Shook. Sun led the team in kills during the regular season with 313. Shook facilitated with a team-high 994 assists.

Texas’ serving consistency will be the key. The Longhorns committed 214 service errors in the regular season — the fourth-most in the Big 12. However, things could be turning in Texas’ favor. The Longhorns limited service errors late in the season, recording just eight errors in a 3-1 victory over No. 18 Baylor on Nov. 25.

“We’ve got to now do the little things,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I thought our serving looked much better against Baylor, and we know we can compete against any team in the country.”

The Longhorns could find themselves in an uphill battle later in the bracket should they advance, having been placed in the same region as No. 11 Utah, No. 14 Iowa State and the defending national champions, No. 3 Stanford.

But the Longhorns say they’re up for the task and ready for a third consecutive trip to the NCAA championship match.

“We’ll have to play some very good teams,” Elliott said. “But we’re excited about the opportunity. We’re just ready to go out and play.”