Gregory Gym

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

It was one point. Then two. Then twelve. 

As the Longhorns conceded twelve consecutive points in the second set, the offseason blues were prevalent. While technique was lacking during that set, chemistry wasn’t.

In the first scrimmage of the spring season, fans got their first look at Texas’ 2018 squad at Gregory Gym. The Longhorns put away the Aggies in four sets, 25-15, 18-25, 25-16, 25-23.

“It felt frantic at some times,” junior libero Autumn Rounsaville said. “We just tried to come together after each point (and regroup).”

The Aggies matched almost every Texas point to open up the match, staying within two points at the mid-set timeout. However, the Longhorns came out of the timeout and had a 9-1 set-closing spurt.

Texas cruised to a 17-10 lead in the second set, only to concede 12 straight points, and the set, to Texas A&M. Junior outside hitter Hollann Hans used her low, cutting serve to keep Texas at bay and help the Aggies come back. Hans had 15 kills and five service aces on the night.

The Longhorns took the lead early in the first set and never ceded it, cruising to a 25-16 win in the third frame.

Despite falling behind early in the fourth frame, Texas came back to play a contested final frame. Both teams traded points until the Longhorns pulled away from a 23-23 deadlock to take the set and match.

Tonight’s scrimmage also saw redshirt freshman middle blocker Brionne Butler see her first action on the court; the highly touted 2017 recruit put up five kills and four blocks, showcasing her versatile skill set at and around the net.

“You can’t even put a word on their potential,” Johnson said. “It’s limitless.”

Both Butler and junior Orie Agbaji got their first stints of extended playing time outside the practice gym, and their offseason work paid off on the floor. Agbaji added six kills and three blocks in the winning effort.

For head coach Jerritt Elliott, Texas’ scrimmage was an opportunity to shake off rust and tinker with a shorthanded roster.

“The rust has been part of the spring,” Elliott said. “You play so many different lineups, but more so we wanted to see a high performance level.”

During the offseason, Texas graduated three seniors and lost star freshman outside hitter Lexi Sun, who transferred to Nebraska. This left the Longhorns with plenty of voids on the court to fill. 

As a result, Wednesday’s scrimmage provided the Longhorns the opportunity to switch players around and try different positions.

“We definitely get better at playing every position,” senior middle blocker Morgan Johnson said. “It makes us more scrappy … it makes us want to work that much harder to overcome the bad hand that was dealt to us.”

Along with the departures, the Longhorns faced a lot drama within the locker room. On top of the questions surrounding Sun’s departure, fellow freshman Olivia Zelon departed the program, highlighting her grievances in a blog post in early January.

The Longhorns didn’t let the off-court drama get in their heads, using it instead as an opportunity to become closer as teammates and find new leaders to turn to, such as Rounsaville.

“We were in the eye of the storm this spring,” Johnson said regarding the offseason drama. “It showed our determination to work for what we want and ignore all the stuff going on around us.”

With new leaders and changes taking place, Texas’ spring season is poised to be an interesting one. Texas’ next scrimmage is set for next Thursday, April 12, against Texas State. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. at Gregory Gym.

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Texas entered Friday’s match against Fairfield with every advantage imaginable. The Longhorns had the depth, the No. 6 seed in the tournament and 3,817 fans at Gregory Gym behind them.

But the Stags were anything but deer in the headlights, fighting tooth and nail with the Longhorns every step of the way.

Fairfield came out firing in the opening set, tying the score at nine and silencing the burnt-orange faithful. So Texas amped things up, feeding off the play of senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu.

The Big 12 Player of the Year continued her season-long dominance, recording five kills and leading the Longhorns to a 25-16 victory.

“In the NCAA tournament, there’s a lot of nerves,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “But I thought we were able to settle down, and we got some great production from our middles early on to give us some separation.”

With the momentum back on their side, the Longhorns hit their stride in the second set, dominating Fairfield to take a commanding 17-7 lead.

Fairfield had no answer for the Texas defense, especially on the front line. Five different Longhorns recorded at least one block in the set, stifling the Stags at every turn.

But the feisty road team led by head coach Todd Kress refused to quit, fending off three set points to bring the score to 24-18. Each time the crowd held its breath, ready to explode, and each time they exhaled in frustration.

Junior middle blocker Morgan Johnson finally put an end to the comeback bid, launching a missile through the heart of the Fairfield defense to secure the 25-18 win and take a two-set lead.

“We knew (Fairfield) would fight,” Elliott said. “They got after it, and I have a lot of respect for what Todd (Kress) has done with this program.”

Fairfield finally broke in the third set, as Texas went in for the kill. The Longhorns didn’t allow the Stags to get anything going, and Texas cruised to a 25-17 win to complete the sweep.

Sophomore outside hitter Micaya White finished the match with a team-high 12 kills (.281) in the victory. Ogbogu had an efficient outing, tallying 11 kills on a .917 hitting percentage and adding four blocks as well.

The Longhorns made the most of their chances throughout the night, recording only seven errors and posting a season-high hitting percentage of 66 percent.

“Our communication was just about taking care of what we could take care of,” Ogbogu said. “We focused on being calm on our side and just trying to scrape away points.”

The win sets up a second-round match against NC State at 7 p.m this Saturday at Gregory Gym. The Wolfpack are rolling after earning the program’s first tournament victory on Thursday with a five-set thriller over Oregon State.

But the match will mark Texas’ final home game of the year, and the Longhorns are determined to bid their fans at Gregory Gym farewell with one last win.

“It would mean a lot (to win),” Ogbogu said. “It’s sad to think that this is our last home match at Gregory, but we’re just excited to get out there.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns hoisted the Big 12 title trophy on Wednesday night the same way they earned it: together.

Texas was crowned the king of the conference in front of a sold-out crowd at Gregory Gym, sweeping the rivaled Sooners to claim sole possession of the Big 12 title.

In a match that was also senior night for Texas, the Longhorns’ four-year veterans lead the way with a noticeable exuberance.

Senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu proved to be the difference in the first set despite the Sooners claiming an early 7-5 lead. The Coppell native worked to right the ship, posting three key kills.

Ogbogu also contributed two blocks, including a big-time rejection to earn the final point and give Texas a commanding 25-13 victory.

The second set was controlled by senior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu. The Fairview native routinely gave Oklahoma a healthy dosage of laser shots down the middle of the defense, recording three kills and committing zero errors in the process.

The Sooners couldn’t match Texas’ firepower, surrendering a 25-15 victory to the Longhorns to give the burnt orange a commanding two-set lead.

The closeout set kicked off with a roar of applause from the Texas faithful as senior middle blocker Mirta Baselovic made her first in-game appearance of the season. It took just two plays for the senior to land a kill, sending the crowd into a frenzy while giving the Longhorns a 12-6 lead.

After the Sooners’ 10-4 run quieted the crowd, it was time for another senior to take the reigns. This time it was senior libero Cat McCoy, who kept her team composed while foiling the Oklahoma offense with six key digs down the stretch to prevent any further damage.

Texas capitalized on those extra opportunities, stringing together an 8-4 run to reach match point. Ogbogu finished it off, delivering a back-breaking kill to secure the win and the title.

Both Ogbogu and Nwanebu finished the outing with eight kills, and McCoy finished with a team-high 10 digs. The win also marks one of Texas’ more complete games, recording a season-best hitting percentage of .526 for the match.

“All year we’ve been saying don’t let up,” Nwanebu said. “I think tonight was that night that we didn’t. If you want to win a championship, you have to peak later (in the season), and I think tonight showed that we’re getting to that point.”

After the trophy was hoisted and the team donned its Big 12 championship t-shirts, the night ended with a short ceremony for Texas’ seniors. The crowd gave each player a round of applause as they were given a bouquet of flowers and their framed jerseys in what might prove to be their last time on the hardwood of Gregory Gym.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Ogbogu said. “Obviously we still have more games to be played. That’s what’s making me not so emotional, but I know it’s going to hit me eventually.”

Texas still has work to do as it prepares for a road match against No. 18 Baylor on Saturday to close out the season. The Bears enter the match on a seven-game win streak highlighted by a 3-0 sweep over No. 14 Kansas on Nov. 11.

A win would solidify Texas’ bid to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament beginning No. 30, ensuring an additional set of matches at home.

“Baylor is scary,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Every coach dreams of being in the position to be able to host at the end of the season, and that’s where we are right now. We just have to go out and execute and be ready.”

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

It was the fifth exchange in the rally. The ball flew in between the two banners above Gregory Gym, and then promptly saved at the scorers’ table. 

An already-noisy crowd then almost blew the roof off of Gregory Gym, following a kill by senior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu.

It was that kind of night for the No. 3 Longhorns, who swept West Virginia to extend their season-high win streak to 11 games.

“We did well responding and just fighting,” senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu said. “(Despite the fact that) all of our touches weren’t the cleanest.”

Texas started the first set off on a quick 4-0 run and never looked back. A 25-19 win in the first frame was highlighted by four kills from sophomore outside hitter Micaya White.

The second set was more contested, as each team had at least two set points. But after a couple of exchanges across the net, a kill by freshman outside hitter Lexi Sun sealed the 28-26 win for the Longhorns.

“Our talk has just been staying calm in those pressure situations,” Ogbogu said. “Remembering our routines and just going back to the basics has helped us not be frantic.”

The Longhorns cruised through the final set 25-17 to complete the night’s sweep.

Ogbogu led the way for Texas, adding 11 kills and seven blocks. This marks Ogbogu’s third straight game with over 10 kills and five blocks. Her strong effort was complemented by White, who recorded nine kills and 11 digs on the night. 

“Just getting more practice and getting more comfortable (is key),” Ogbogu said. “It’s helped us get more comfortable with things we’re struggling with.”

One of the Longhorns’ defensive pillars, senior libero Cat McCoy, closed in on a milestone achievement on Saturday night, tying the school’s all-time record for digs. McCoy recorded 12 digs on the night and proved instrumental in stopping the Mountaineers’ consistent attack.

Texas’ all-around effort was evident not only on the stat sheet, but also on the floor. The Longhorns spent their evening diving on the hardwood, into the stands and on the scorers’ table saving balls as the match went on, highlighting the intensity that the Longhorns play with.

That intensity was matched by Texas’ fans. The Mountaineers accrued nine service errors as a consistently loud crowd contributed to Texas’ home-court advantage.

“It’s awesome playing at home in front of this crowd,” Ogbogu said. “It was just cool to see our fans come out and support us.”

As the second half of Big 12 play commences, the Longhorns will spend the majority of their time in the friendly confines of Gregory Gym, where they will play four of their next six games.

Texas travels to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on Kansas State on Wednesday. First serve is set for 8 p.m.