Head coach Jerritt Elliott likes to test his team.
Already this season, the No. 2 Longhorns have played road matches in tough environments against No. 8 Florida and No. 10 Nebraska, faced inadvertent adversity when their schedule changed between the Nebraska and West Virginia matches and had a string of three matches in five days.
But with a 13-0 overall record and a 5-0 conference record, the Longhorns have passed all of Elliott’s tests.
Now, after over a week off from playing, Texas will get another test, traveling up to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on No. 25 Kansas State (17-2,4-1 Big 12) Saturday at 7 p.m.
“We need to be as uncomfortable as possible when we go to these environments, and it’s going to help us, come NCAA Tournament time,” Elliott said.
While Texas has had tremendous success against Kansas State on the road, going 14-4 all-time in Ahearn Field House, the Longhorns have had some trouble with ranked Wildcats.
In 2007 and 2008, when Kansas State was ranked No. 17 and No. 14, respectively, Texas had to go five sets to secure victories in Manhattan. The Longhorns’ last road loss to the Wildcats — who were ranked No. 8 in the country at the time — came in 2003.
This time around, Kansas State comes in on a four-match winning streak with a 17-2 record. The Wildcats also finally cracked the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 this past week.
“They’re on a hot winning streak and play really good at home,” Elliott said. “It’s a tough environment, but we need to be in these environments to see what we can do.”
The Wildcats are the most dangerous on the defensive end. Kansas State is third in the Big 12, with 15.46 digs per set — led by sophomore libero Kersten Kober with 267 digs — and second in the conference with 3.06 blocks per set.
Elliott said that this is likely their biggest conference match so far this season.
“I thought Kansas was going to be [real tough], and we were able to pull that out in four games,” Elliott said. “But Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma are really some big road tests that we’re going to have to face.”
Still, the Longhorns have yet to lose a match this season and have dropped only six of 45 sets, as sophomore middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu leads the conference with a .410 hitting percentage while three Longhorns ranked in the top 10 in blocks per set.