The drive for five straight Big 12 Conference titles continues when No. 3 Texas takes on Iowa State on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Gregory Gym.
The Longhorns (12-1) and Cyclones (9-4) both come into this matchup with a 2-0 record in Big 12 play. Texas coasted to straight-set wins against TCU and West Virginia, and Iowa State is riding the momentum of its impressive victory over Oklahoma.
“It’s going to be challenging,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We need to serve well, hit the right locations and scheme the right way. It’s all about us.”
Freshman outside hitter Jess Schaben, Big 12 Rookie of the Week, will leads Iowa State’s offense with 161 kills. Sophomore setter Monique Harris leads the Cyclones with 434 assists and 18 service aces. Defensively, senior libero Caitlin Nolan anchors the back row defense with 285 digs. Sophomores middle blocker Samara West and outside hitter Alexis Conaway each have 32 blocks.
Texas counters Iowa State’s solid defense with multiple strong arms highlighted by senior outside hitter Amy Neal, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week. Neal leads Texas and the conference with 181 kills and 22 service aces. Junior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu adds 130 kills and 54 blocks and outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame has 100 kills. Junior setter Chloe Collins boasts 484 assists and sophomore Cat McCoy leads the defense with 213 digs.
Although Texas has played well, Elliott said he still sees room for improvement. He said he particularly wants to see is Texas using its depth offensively.
“We need to get more balanced on the right side of the court, especially in transition,” Elliott said. “We’re depending a lot on [Neal] right now, and it would be nice to take a few swings and take blockers with us a little more. Getting efficient there is going to be key for us.”
Texas’ hitters look to rise to that challenge. Every game a different Longhorn has stepped up with a great outing, and as the season gets tougher they’ll continue to depend on that.