Texas volleyball entered the season with two goals: win the Big 12 title and win a national championship. However, after a loss to Oklahoma on Oct. 25, the first goal was in jeopardy.
While the Longhorns’ loss to the Sooners hurt Texas’ Big 12-title hopes, it helped the team refocus and fueled them to four-straight Big 12 wins.
“We are focusing on doing well in the conference,” sophomore outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame. “Our main goal is to win the national championship, but we also want to win our conference. Because we have a loss, that puts a little more pressure on our backs. We embrace that.”
With a 3-0 sweep against West Virginia on Nov. 7 and an Oklahoma loss to Iowa State on Wednesday, No. 5 Texas (19-1, 11-1 Big 12) can now clinch the Big 12 championship against the Sooners on Saturday night.
With a victory against Oklahoma, Texas would win its seventh conference title in eight years.
But the task won’t be easy. In the October match against Oklahoma, Texas had a below average .230 hitting percentage, committed 15 attack errors, 14 service errors and two blocking errors. Also in that game, Oklahoma’s kill leader, junior outside hitter Kierra Holst, recorded 16 kills. Despite Texas’ poor performance in its first game against the Sooners and Holst’s dominating performance, head coach Jerritt Elliott is looking forward to the rematch.
“I think it’s something that we need,” Elliott said. “It’s something that’s exciting to be a part of. I think they’re feeling pretty confident about playing us after they beat us 3-0. We feel like we can play at a much different level. I would imagine our girls would come in with a little bit of an edge. It’ll be a chaotic environment for us. It’s everything that we need as we prepare for the tournament.”
Elliott will hope to replicate Texas’ performance against West Virginia, as the Longhorns recorded a season high .512 hitting percentage. He will also continue to rely on senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman, who amassed 18 kills and four aces against the Mountaineers.
Like Prieto Cerame, Eckerman recognizes that the Longhorns have played much better since suffering their only loss this season.
“We’ve obviously gotten better from that match on, and that’s the biggest thing,” Eckerman said. “It’s not like we have to get revenge. We’re just going to go in there the same way we have. We aren’t going to treat it any differently. We’re just going to use it as a target on our backs.”
Texas and Oklahoma square off Saturday at 7 p.m.
“Hopefully [Oklahoma] can play well and we can play at our peak and we can come out with a win,” Elliott said. “We have a chance to clinch on their home court.”