For the 19th game in a row, the top-ranked Longhorns cruised to victory against Baylor on Saturday. They didn’t need any final point heroics. They didn’t need any pressure-filled serves. Nor did they need any time-outs to counter an opposing team’s attack.
Losing never crossed the record-setting crowd’s mind.
And it has been that way this whole conference season.
This Texas team etched their names into the history books as the only team other than Nebraska (’00-’02, ’04) to go undefeated in the Big 12 play.
“On senior night, they accomplished something that no other class before has ever accomplished,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We went undefeated in the Big 12, and it is a major accomplishment
for this team.”
Texas dominated in Big 12 play this season. The Longhorns won 48 sets and lost only seven. They also hit a league high .295 and allowed a league low .174 from their opponents.
Texas hasn’t needed a fifth set since non-conference play against — who else — Nebraska in late September
Technically, it isn’t the first time in the program’s history Texas went undefeated in conference play: it did it nine times as a member of the Southwest Conference. But this feat is more impressive, as teams only had to win 10 games then and they need 16 now.
“It’s the first time in the Big 12,” Elliott said. “I don’t want to take anything away from what those kids did in the Southwest Conference.”
Some of Texas’ success can be attributed to its weak conference. The only other ranked teams in the Big 12 are No. 12 Kansas and No. 22 Iowa State. Texas no longer worries about No. 5 Missouri or No. 8 Nebraska, who both shifted from the Big 12 following conference realignments in 2011.
“There is no breezing through a conference,” said Nell Fortner, the Longhorn Network commentator and member of the 1981 AIAW National Championship Longhorns team. “You are challenged day in and day out.”
The real reason is the quality of the players.
“This team is really different than last year,” senior setter Hannah Allison said. It’s a sentiment echoed by many members of last season’s national championship team.
Still, it’s the same talent. The starting lineup is identical at all but one position. All-American junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman is playing six rotations, a different role than last year. Freshman Chiaka Ogbogu replaced Sha’dare McNeal at opposite. The bench is a bit different, but, for the most part, it’s the same group.
“The personnel may be similar,” Elliott said. “But it’s a better team.”
The NCAA selection committee announced Texas as a No. 1 seed Sunday, and now Big 12 play is behind the team. A second national championship is the goal, but, no matter the result of a repeat bid, the undefeated Big 12 season will live on.