The game meant more than a “W” in the results column. For a Texas team who is itching to bring home a championship crown after so many near misses, the win represented just how dominating the Longhorns have been all season.
No. 3 Texas walked into Lawrence, Kan. Saturday and brought home a close 3-2 win against No. 23 Kansas who was ranked second in the Big 12 (20-25, 25-15, 22-25, 25-16, 15-12). The game marked Kansas’ first home loss this season. Thanks to their 15th straight victory, Texas is now 21-3 on the season.
More importantly, Texas is now 13-0 in conference play, marking its best start in the Big 12 in Texas history under head coach Jerritt Elliott. The win also guarantees Texas at least a part of the Big 12 crown.
“We have a chance to go 13-0 for the first time in 15 years in conference. We’ve never done that before so it is a big opportunity for us,” Elliott said last week after equaling the 12-0 record he had set before heading to Kansas.
The Longhorns will clinch the title outright if they can defeat Texas Tech on Wednesday night at Gregory Gym. It will mark the Longhorn’s second consecutive and sixth total Big 12 volleyball title.
Starting last season, the Longhorns have won 27 consecutive conference matches and 38 consecutive home conference matches. They have only three games left in the season before they are projected to host the first rounds of the NCAA tournament in December.
“It’s a big reason why a lot of players come here, because they can contend for a national championship year in and year out,” Elliott said of the Longhorn’s success so far this year. “We’ve been close, we need to get a little lucky, we need to stay healthy but I like the demeanor of our team.”
The match at Kansas marked only the second time all season the Longhorns had to battle from a 2-1 deficit to win a game.
Junior outside hitter Bailey Webster led the Longhorn’s offensive attack with 17 kills, three digs and a .250 hitting clip. Fellow outside hitter All-American Haley Eckerman registered 16 kills, though she contributed a team-high 10 errors against the Jayhawks.
For Kansas, junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc led with 18 kills and a .306 hitting clip.
The Jayhawks jumped to a fast 0-1 match lead with a 20-25 set victory over the Longhorns. The Longhorns weren’t able to overcome a slow start and never led in the first set. Webster was able to erase a five point 8-13 deficit and brought the set to within two, but the Longhorns succumbed to errors and gave the set to Kansas.
Sophomore Khat Bell led the second set for the Longhorns and evened the match with a 25-15 set to victory. She registered six kills and one block.
Freshman Molly McCage also contributed in the set with three kills and a block.
Set three went to Kansas with several offensive runs lead by Jarmoc. With Texas leading 14-13, a 2-8 run by the Jayhawks put them back on track to take the 22-25 victory.
Set four went well for the Longhorns as they registered eight blocks to even the score 2-2 with a 25-16 victory. Webster went on a rampage and logged five kills and two blocks with Hannah Allison coming out with 12 assists.
In the fifth set, the Longhorns relied on the abilities of Eckerman and Allison and several Jayhawk errors to keep the score in favor of Texas. Kansas kept the score close, but Eckerman nailed a service ace followed by a kill by Webster to get the 15-12 victory.
“We need to keep improving. We can still improve a lot over the next month,” Elliott said. “Our players know that. I’m really proud of the way they’re going through preparing this season. They’ve been a lot of fun to coach. I’m excited for the direction that they’re heading.”