Texas sweeps Baylor in conference home opener

Keshav Prathivadi

The last time Texas played at Gregory Gym a little less than two weeks ago, there were more groans than cheers.

On Wednesday, fans had a lot more to cheer about. The Longhorn faithful didn’t see 10 service errors in a single set or have balls sail past out-of-position players.

Instead, they saw a strong, almost error-free effort indicative of a team that had made necessary adjustments.

After a weeklong break from conference action, No. 4 Texas returned to the floor and promptly dispatched No. 21 Baylor in straight sets (25-23, 25-16, 25-15). The Longhorns played close early on and got better and better as the match went on.

“I think that first game (set) our offense struggled a bit and just kept them (Baylor) in the game,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “As the match went on we got a lot better.”

Baylor got off to a quick start, nabbing a 17-13 lead halfway through the set, forcing a Texas timeout. Elliott’s huddle during that time out sparked a 5-0 run got them the momentum they needed to close the set and match.

The Longhorns took off from there, bamboozling a well-ranked Baylor team and holding them to less than 20 points for the remaining two sets. This swing can be attributed to both the timeout and a defense that locked down as the match went on. Here’s another reason why: The Longhorns out-blocked the Bears 12-3.

“We just have to take each point as itself and not focus on the score as much,” sophomore setter Ashley Shook said. “(We need to) keep resetting after every point so we can just play our game.”

Texas’ win tonight improved its record to 7–3 overall and 2–0 in Big 12 play. On the way to their seventh win, the Longhorns shook off one of the bugs that’s been hurting them recently: serving.

Junior outside hitter Micaya White spent time after Texas’ match with Stanford to try out a new serve. Elliott himself started changing up his rotations to ensure the Longhorns had their best servers on the floor. Small tweaks like these helped the Longhorns tonight, and it showed with eight service errors tonight compared to Baylor’s 14.

“Across the country you’re starting to see a few more missed serves because of how good the offenses are,” Elliott said. “The serving side (of our game) improved and our offense improved (as well).”

The Longhorns also missed the presence of senior outside hitter Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani, who sat out with an ankle injury. Freshman outside hitter Katarina Luketic filled in for her well, tallying 4 kills and blocks on the night.

Texas got exactly what it wanted out of its return to Gregory Gym: a reinvigorated attack, stronger defense and a much-needed morale boost. After tough losses to Stanford, stringing back-to-back wins was just what Texas needed.

“I think the break was really well-needed. We’ve been going strong since preseason,” redshirt freshman middle blocker Brionne Butler said. “It was just a good time to just regroup and refocus.”

The Longhorns won’t have much time to catch their breath as they head to Morgantown, West Virginia, this Saturday to face the Mountaineers (8–7, 1–2 Big 12). First serve is set for 12 p.m.