Longhorns sweep SMU to advance to 11th-straight Sweet 16

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

SMU’s stay in Austin was cut short Saturday.

No. 4 Texas (24–4, 14–2 Big 12) defeated SMU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a 3-0 sweep.

With the victory, Texas advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 11th straight season and 29th time in program history.  

“Let’s give credit where credit is due to SMU for reaching the second round of the tournament,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “This is the first time in their program history. Their libero is a fighter, and their two middles are really good.” 

The Mustangs’ defense kept the ball off the floor early in the first set to take a 3-0 lead, but it didn’t last long. The Longhorns tied SMU five times before taking an 11-10 lead. Senior setter Chloe Collins sparked a five-point run by setting up a big kill late in the set, and Texas closed out on a Mustangs service error, 25-15.

Senior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame bolstered the Longhorn offense with seven kills in the second set, while junior Ebony Nwanebu consistently delivered at the net. The Mustangs tested the Longhorns until a four-point run gave Texas a 19-15 lead. SMU hung on late in the set, but Texas finished it up, 25-18. 

“It starts out with our passing,” Elliott said. “When our passing is there, our hitting percentages go up. So Chloe [Collins] just did a good job, and as our middles improve, teams are respecting them a little bit more, so it’s starting to open up some seams and starting to really do some things for our offense.”

A series of runs helped the Longhorns secure a 15-7 lead in the third set. Texas’ defense continued to feed its offense, with three players posting double-digit digs. The team also limited SMU’s hitting percentage to .144 overall. Junior libero Cat McCoy led the pack with 18 digs, while Collins and freshman outside hitter Micaya White combined for 22.

“[Teammates] just have really been emphasizing [to making it] easier on Chloe [Collins], so she can set nice balls to our pin hitters and our middles,” McCoy said. “Just been working on that in practice, and I just made that the focus tonight.”

Texas dominated the third set, 25-12, to complete the sweep. All three of Texas’ outside hitters racked up double-digit kills. Nwanebu led with 15 kills, while Prieto Cerame and White followed close behind with 14 and 13, respectively.

No. 4 Texas is set to face No. 13 BYU on Friday in the Sweet 16. The Longhorns will host the NCAA Austin Regional, which includes the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds, next Friday and Saturday at Gregory Gym.  

“It is a blessing to get to the sweet Sweet 16.” McCoy said. “Is not as easy as everyone thinks. We are really lucky to be hosting it and having our fans support, because that is huge for us.”