Nothing seems to be able to slow down this Texas squad, not even a hungry and motivated bear.
Baylor (18-12, 5-9 Big 12) came into the match fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament, but No. 9 Texas (19-4, 12-1 Big 12) controlled the pace of play, even after a very sluggish start in the first set. Winning the match in straight sets (25-23, 25-19, 25-16) on Wednesday night at Gregory Gym.
Texas received a very balanced performance from its whole squad, getting great production from the bench, while spreading the kills around. When it was all said and done, this approach worked great for the Longhorns, hitting a respectable 71 percent for the match.
Freshman Madelyn Hutson really stood out on the floor for Texas — and not just because of her 6-foot-5 height. She had an excellent attacking game, hitting .750 while putting down six kills.
“Maddie was fast in her approach, which is something that we always get on her in practice,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “Her speed and trusting her speed because there is a big result for slide hitters when they are able do that.”
Hutson also showed a really strong connection with backup setter Michelle Kocher, as the ball always seemed to be set in just the right spot for Hutson to finish when Kocher set for her.
“We (Hutson and Kocher) had a really good connection, and tonight, it just flowed really smoothly,” Hutson said.
The Longhorns played well, but they struggled to deal with an energetic Baylor squad early on in the first set. The pace of play was slow, with each team calling two time outs in the set, something that rarely happens in the collegiate game. Texas was able to pull the set out late on a 4-2 run, aided by a set-ending pair of errors from the Bears to eke out a win.
From there, Texas took control of the match, hitting a much higher percentage in the final two sets. The team dominated the second set and made quick work of a Baylor squad that seemed to have lost its motivation after falling in such a closely contested first set. Texas won the second 25-19 in a quick-moving contest and did so without any errors, a huge improvement over the seven errors it had in the first.
“We had zero hitting errors in game two and only one in game three after seven in game one, and ultimately, in there, relays the results of playing well,” Elliott said.
The third set was much of the same for Texas as they continued to control play, despite starting the set with only two starters on the floor. The Longhorns took the set 25-16 and really finished off the Bears without much of a whimper, despite their loud bark at the beginning of the match.
It was Texas’ 11th-straight win in the Big 12, and while other teams are getting weaker as the stress and wear and tear of the season goes on, Texas seems to be hitting its stride.
“This is a very tough time of the year for a lot of teams, as they have been going since August,” Elliott said. “Keeping them balanced both physically and mentally is key and letting them be fresh, and I’ve been pleased with what they have been doing because they understand that responsibility.”