Momentum has a habit of changing direction. Luckily for the Longhorns, the pendulum swung their way most of the time as the team made multiple comebacks against rival Texas A&M on Friday night.
The 8–2 Aggies hoped to crack the Top 25 coming into the match. Texas wanted to get a win before opening Big 12 play. The renewal of a rivalry added extra tension to a matchup between two teams with different missions.
“You know this is a big rivalry,” junior setter Ashley Shook said. “It presents an opportunity to wear your jersey with pride and participate in something that means so much to fans.”
The Aggies wanted to take away the home field advantage early. They fed off the high emotion of the home crowd, jumping out to an early 10-5 lead in the set. However, Texas would slowly chip away at the lead.
The early Aggie run was countered with spikes and digs from a Texas team trying to rebound from a disappointing loss against Rice on Wednesday. The deficit would dwindle from five to three, and then was eliminated completely as the teams tied at sixteen points apiece. The sudden surged forced Texas A&M to call a timeout.
The Aggies responded by pushing Texas to a critical point in the set down 20-23. The Longhorns showed poise, scoring three straight points. Texas took that momentum and shut the door on A&M to win the first set.
“I think we just beared down,” senior outside hitter Micaya White said. “We forced them into mistakes in the side of the net, so they fell out of their system.”
Even with the crowd firmly against them, the Aggies fought back. The team jumped out to a 9-4 lead riding the coattails of three kills by senior outside hitter Hollann Hans. The “Aggie Yell” sounded from the bench, so head coach Jerriott Elliot called a timeout to silence it.
Texas would tie it back up at 11, but freshman outside hitter Lauren Davis propelled Texas A&M to a 21-15 lead. Texas would continue to battle until 20-23. Just like the first set, the Longhorns charged back.
Facing two match points, White and middle blocker Asjia O’Neil stepped up. Each point was met with force from the Longhorn side of the net by the senior leader and the talented redshirt freshman.
The Aggies stumbled into an attack error, and a double block by Shook and freshman middle blocker Molly Phillips gave Texas another set. The home crowd continued to fuel the team as the Longhorns were one set away from a win against one of their oldest rivals.
“I just kind of saw what was open, so we took those opportunities at the net,” Shook said.
Facing a sweep at the hands of their fiercest rival, the Aggies jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The Longhorns would battle back to tie the set at 15 points apiece. After that, the team never looked back, winning the third set 25-22.
The home victory marks the end of a brutal nonconference schedule for Texas. After facing four ranked opponents in their first eight games, the team will have two days off for the first time in weeks.
“It will be great for everyone to get a break,” Elliott said. “They can take a nap for the first time in weeks.”
The Longhorns open conference play next Wednesday at home against the Cyclones of Iowa State.