Despite a loud Longhorn crowd and a 33-game home-win streak, Texas lost to No. 14 Minnesota in four sets Thursday night.
Junior outside/opposite hitter Bailey Webster led the Longhorns, tying her career best with 17 kills and hitting .368 for the match. Freshman Nicole Dalton had a season-high 21 assists as well as 10 digs and one kill. Minnesota’s Katherine Harms had 24 kills with 13 digs, allowing Minnesota to snap the Longhorns’ record home-win streak.
Senior Sha’Dare McNeal opened the first match as the libero for the Longhorns. Harms added three kills later to make it a 24-18 advantage for the Golden Gophers. Webster’s kill sparked four straight points for Texas, but Harms closed out the set with her ninth kill as Minnesota took the first set, 25-22.
The Longhorns were held to less than 20 points for the first time this season in the second set. Minnesota’s 11-3 run allowed them to take the set, 25-13.
After shifting the starting lineup to include junior Sarah Palmer at libero and McNeal at utility, the Longhorns managed a close third set, powered by Webster’s six kills. Texas won the set 29-27 and forced a fourth set.
As set four drew to a close, McNeal’s massive kills tied the score at 21, placing Texas in set point position at 24-22. Texas had another set point due to a Minnesota attack error, but Minnesota’s Tori Dixon evened the score. Khat Bell and Dixon both posted kills to bring the score to 26-26, but it was Harms who launched another kill, handing the lead back to Minnesota. Despite one final kill by Bell, a Texas hitting error gave match point to Minnesota as Harms polished off the win with one last kill.
“Obviously, we are disappointed in the loss,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We tried a new lineup and thought we were going to do some good things with it, but we couldn’t get any continuity early on. Minnesota did a good job putting pressure on us. They were efficient, and we were very deficient in our defense and blocking.”
Sophomore Haley Eckerman said she thought the mentality of the team was not up to par to face an opponent like Minnesota.
“Minnesota is a good team, and I think we just weren’t fully prepared,” she said. “We were prepared, but not mentally there at the beginning of the set.”
The Longhorns will face Minnesota again tonight in Gregory Gym at 6:30 p.m.