The Longhorns kick off the second half of their Big 12 season with a rivalry matchup at home against Oklahoma on Wednesday.
While Texas (16–2, 8–0 Big 12) remains undefeated in the conference, it hasn’t been an easy road.
“It’s good that we’re coming out with W’s,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “The matches we get from teams are so much different from other teams playing each other. They bring their ‘A’ game against us.”
The Longhorns’ only sweep in conference play came against TCU. The team has already played five-set matches against Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas Tech.
Oklahoma (12–9, 3-5 Big 12) has not fared well in the conference so far. The Sooners enter the matchup with a two-game losing streak following contests with Kansas State and Baylor. But they challenged the Longhorns in Norman on Sept. 28 in the 3-1 Texas victory.
“You wanna keep getting tested and keep getting experience,” Elliott said. “You look at our team, we’re playing a lot of freshmen out there, lot of players that haven’t played and they’re sophomores, and one player we’re defining in a new position she hasn’t played.”
Extra game experience has helped the Longhorn underclassmen transition into their big roles on the team. The outside hitters have remained top-ranked assets to the team as freshman Micaya White earned her fifth consecutive Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor and currently holds the third most kills in the Big 12.
Junior Ebony Nwanebu and senior Paulina Prieto Cerame also claim high rankings in the conference. Nwanebu holds the third-highest hitting percentage and ranks No. 5 in kills. Prieto Cerame sits No. 7 in kills and number of points scored, just below White and Nwanebu.
“Leadership has been really good, it’s been growing,” Elliott said. “When they have that trust in the older players they are able to look them in the eye when things run wide. It bodes well for our team.”
Texas’ defense has also started to gel recently. Last week, freshman defensive specialist Claire Hahn showed she could hold her own with junior libero Cat McCoy and senior setter Chloe Collins, recording 15 digs against Texas Tech — her first time in the double digits. McCoy led the team with 20 while Collins added 12.
“We definitely are moving in that right direction [defensively],” Hahn said. “Because it definitely feels different out there than it did at the beginning.”
Sophomore middle blockers Morgan Johnson and Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani have aided the Longhorns in recording double-digit blocks in their last two games, with 16 against Baylor and 12 against Texas Tech. Texas currently stands at No. 2 in the Big 12 in total blocks, with Johnson at No. 5 individually in total blocks.
The Longhorns hope to continue their defensive momentum and jump start the second half of their conference season against the Sooners.
“Coming off of Baylor, I think we grew as far as team chemistry and being together,” Collins said. “I think going into the second half of conference, we see how we build on that and just being able to trust each other even more.”