No. 1 Texas volleyball back in business, sweeps Kansas 3-0

Jordan Mitchell

If there was any doubt in Texas’ No. 1 ranking after Saturday’s narrow victory over Kansas, the Longhorns squashed it Sunday night.

While Texas played well in its first matchup against the Jayhawks, it was unsettling for fans to watch the Longhorns fall 2-0 to unranked Kansas. Texas was able to muster enough momentum to take the match 3-2 in a sweep of the last three sets on Saturday, but Kansas proved that no powerhouse is invincible. 

The Longhorns refused to be matched for a second time in Sunday’s game versus Kansas, winning in dominant fashion thanks to a tandem effort by Brionne Butler and Asjia O’Neal, who produced a combined 23 kills. 

“We just focused on the little things and made sure that we were taking care of the ball on our side, and not on what Kansas was doing,” O’Neal told ESPN’s Courtney Lyle  in a post-game interview. “I think we definitely cleaned it up a lot from night one the night two.”

On the road in Lawrence, Kansas, Texas breezed through the first set in a deafening Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena, despite targeted attacks against setter Jhenna Gabriel. While Gabriel became occupied with diving across the court for digs, libero Nalani Iosia found herself relieving the setting effort, propelling the Longhorns to a commanding 25-11 win in the first set.

In the second set, Kansas caught a lucky break off six service errors by Texas, keeping the set competitive. While Texas’ focus on serving hard has produced an increase in service aces for the season, the powerful serves spawn a greater likelihood for error. 

O’Neal kindled momentum for Texas after a massive overhead swing to sink a kill just along the Kansas 3-meter line. The Horns would later go on a five-point scoring run off a Skylar Fields kill, winning the set 25-16. 

Kansas found energy in the third set following a string of Texas attack errors and a couple of service aces by Kansas freshman Caroline Bien, who recorded 21 kills against the Longhorns in the first match. Following a timeout by Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott, the Longhorns won four points off their middle blockers to tie the set 5-5. 

The middle blocker trio of Butler, O’Neal and Molly Phillips bullied the Jayhawks at the net throughout the third set, combining for 13 kills to shut down a Kansas comeback. Fields sunk the final kill to win the set 25-18, shutting down any doubts over Texas’ No.1 ranking. 

The Longhorns  return to Gregory Gymnasium on Thursday to take on TCU, where they look to improve to 15-0.