Longhorns secure fifth-straight Final Four appearance


Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns put an end to the Bluejays’ Cinderella season on Saturday evening.

Creighton (29–7) made it to their first Elite 8 in school history after defeating No. 5 Kansas and No. 12 Michigan. But the dream season ended at Gregory Gym, where No. 4 Texas (26–4) defeated Creighton  25-19, 25-20, 25-11.

After a five-set emotional roller coaster against BYU on Friday afternoon, the Longhorns had to turn around and prepare for a new team.

“I had a lot of concerns going in today,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I got up at 5:30 and watched six matches for about eight hours. I was very concerned, but I thought our servers did a really good job of eliminating some of their play routes and put us in a position to play some good defense and play ahead of them.”

It had been less than 24 hours since the Longhorns’ tough win over BYU, but they took the court ready for a new match. Texas started with a 9-point run to secure an early 11-2 read. The Bluejays chipped away, eventually closing the gap 19-16, but that was the closest they would get. The Longhorns closed the set 25-19.

“I think it's hard when it's high emotion and coming back the next day to really be focused on this team,” senior defensive specialist Nicole Dalton said.” But I think we did a really good job of that, and really good job of following it and taking it one step at a time.”

The Bluejays took an early lead in the second set at 12-9. The Longhorns stayed within two points of the Bluejays until a double block by senior setter Chloe Collins and sophomore middle blocker Morgan Johnson tied the score at 15-15. Solo blocks by junior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu and sophomore outside hitter Yaazie Bedart-Ghani would help the Longhorns cruise to victory 25-20.

There was nothing stopping the Longhorns in the third set. A 7-point run secured an 8-3 lead, which extended to 18-6 late in the set. The hitters were swinging with a 42.5 percent accuracy, while the defense held the Bluejays to 15.4 percent.

“I thought their outside really dominated and did some things that were different from what we've seen as far as where they were hitting,” Creighton head coach Bernthal Booth said. “They kind of hit all over the court, that made them tough to defend.”

Johnson and Bedart-Ghani each had four kills, and also aided in the eight total team blocks. The Longhorns finished the at 25-11, securing their fifth straight Final Four appearance. The Longhorns will take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, for a rematch of last year’s national championship.

“It never gets old,” Dalton said. “I'm brought to tears right now because it's so hard to get to the Final Four, and I don't think everyone realizes that all the time. But it's very hard, and when you have a group of girls each and every year that I've been, it has been amazing.”