With ESPNU in the house and a raucous crowd on hand, there was a buzz in the air at Gregory Gym on Wednesday reminiscent of playoff volleyball as Texas defeated Nebraska 3-1 to move a game-and-a-half behind the No. 2 Cornhuskers atop the Big 12 standings and extend their seven-match win streak.
With several fans sporting their Halloween costumes early, the No. 10 Longhorns (15-5; 9-2 Big 12) opened a house of horrors for the Cornhuskers (19-2; 11-1) certain to have them experiencing nightmares about their final game in Austin as a Big 12 foe.
It was not Nebraska’s night as the team committed 30 errors, not including a costly miscue in the final set in which the ball inexplicably fell to the ground amongst a ring of five Cornhuskers.
Buoyed by the numerous Nebraska mistakes that kept giving the Longhorns easy points, Texas denied the Cornhuskers a chance to romp through the Big 12 undefeated. With the decibel level dramatically rising and falling with each volley, Texas junior outside hitter Amber Roberson’s 16th and final kill put an exclamation point on a hotly contested fourth set to vanquish the Cornhuskers once and for all.
“We were good when it counted and aggressive,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said.
“When a team fights like this, you are really pleased with their performance, and it shows a lot about the character that they [have]. I’ve always felt there was something special about this group with all the things we’ve been going through.”
The Longhorns set the tone in the first with the Texas faithful treating the squad to a standing ovation after junior setter Michelle Kocher stole a kill to give the Longhorns an early 11-6 advantage. A pair of kills by junior middle blocker Rachael Adams and Roberson sent Cornhuskers crashing to the hardwood as they attempted to dig out the sizzling strikes — to the delight of the 3,235 screaming fans. Roberson led the way with five kills, sparking a 5-0 run to seal the deal.
Nebraska initially looked shell-shocked with the rowdy crowd seemingly getting to the team. It was most evident in the second set when a pair of Cornhuskers crashed into each other and the ball fell to the court for a Texas point.
Senior outside hitter Juliann Faucette took over in the second, pacing the Longhorns with four kills and maintaining Texas’ energy level. As the Horns headed into the locker room for intermission with a 25-19 win in hand, every seat was empty with the entire building standing to show their support for the team’s hustle — the noise alone was enough to blow the roof off the place.
The third was a back-and-forth affair with 12 ties and four lead changes. The Cornhuskers made plays when they counted, grinding out the win 27-25. Faucette did her best to keep the set close with six powerful kills — a few of which left skid marks. But the Cornhuskers showed why they are the No. 2 team in the nation as they kept their composure and never showed any quit with their backs against the wall and an unblemished Big 12 record hanging in the balance.
“I was just thinking about winning this game and doing it with my team that’s worked so hard all year,” Faucette said. “These are the matches that you work for. To see our team go out and fight through every single play and battle to get the win is what counts.”
But Roberson and the Longhorns stormed back in the final set to win their 10th-straight at home.