Timing is everything in sports. Whether it’s getting hot at just the right moment or getting pumped before a huge game. For the Longhorns, it was a little bit of both.
The No. 5 Texas Longhorns extended their current winning streak to six games by defeating the Kansas State Wildcats 25-19, 25-15, 25-19, a season high for consecutive wins. The team has also put itself in the position to clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title this Saturday against Kansas.
The Longhorns were also taken to five sets in Manhattan, Kansas earlier this season, and pulled out a close victory over the Wildcats seven weeks ago. The team has changed dramatically since then.
“It’s a long season and a lot changes,” middle blocker Morgan Johnson said. “A team changes probably two or three times in a matter of two months. We had that loss to Kansas and that was really like a turning point for us. I think we are a completely different team and you can see the strides that we’ve made.”
The opening set was a surprise at first. The Wildcats, despite their poor Big 12 record, came in playing strong. While errors hurt both teams, the Wildcats hung in for the first part of the set, tying the score at 12 points apiece. Then the Longhorns began to pull away, scoring five straight and 11 of the next 13 points to take a lead. They refused to give it up.
Texas would win the set, 25-19, showcasing a much improved defensive effort along with improvement in the serving game. Both are crucial pieces that need to be sharp heading into the postseason.
“I think we were steady the whole night and I think we did a good job with our serving,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I thought our defense was some of the best it’s been all season long. We can eliminate a couple of the unforced errors, but besides that it was a good performance by us.”
The second set was very different for the Longhorns, as they jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back, going up by a score of 11-4 at one point. The team looked polished in every phase of the game.
Texas would go on to win the second set by 10 points, 25-15. The defense played much better in the set, and had the team firing on all cylinders heading into the third set.
The completion of the sweep, the sixth at home this season, came without much drama as the Longhorns send fans home happy with a 25-19 win.
The team will play Kansas at home on Saturday with the possibility of clinching the Big 12 title.
“Every year one of our biggest goals is to win the Big 12,” Johnson said. “That’s what we have our sights on every single year. For us to be able to achieve that goal would be huge for us. It’d show us that all the hard work we’ve put in is paying off.”