Last week, the Longhorns achieved their first perfect conference record in school history.
But that doesn’t matter now. The path to a second-straight National Championship begins with Texas State.
Texas (23-2, 16-0 Big 12) will be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship and host Sun Belt Conference Champion Texas State (24-12, 11-7 Sun Belt) in the opening round of action. Texas State may not have faced the same level of competition, but the numbers prove they have a chance to compete with Texas.
The Bobcats outhit their opponents by a combined 211 kills in 36 games on the season. Their defense seemed to be the attribute that kept the team in every game as they surrendered only 706 errors as opposed to 824 combined errors from their opponents.
Texas State’s leading offensive force, senior outside hitter Amari Deardorff, recorded 430 total kills on the season and posted a 3.23 kill per set average, which would have been good enough for the third-best average on the Longhorns. Her .302 kill percentage was higher than Haley Eckerman, junior outside hitter and Big 12 Player of the Year, and fellow Big 12 First-Teamer senior outside hitter Bailey Webster.
If the Longhorns are able to get past the Bobcats, they will meet the winner of Texas A&M and UTSA, both of whom boast formidable records.
Texas A&M (18-11, 10-8 SEC) finished the season with a .253 attack percentage compared to just .205 for its opponents. Despite a shaky record, the Aggies’ possess a potent offensive attack, registering 14.3 kills per set while committing 75 fewer total errors than their opponents in 104 sets played.
The Road Runners of UTSA (24-7, 13-1 Conference USA) ran through their conference this season in a similar fashion that Texas ran the Big 12. UTSA used an offensive attack that surrendered 224 less errors than its opponents while boasting a defense that held opponents to just a .159 combined hitting percentage on the season.
UTSA’s coach, Laura Neugebauer-Groff, boasts strong UT connections: Neugebauer-Groff captained the Longhorns to four Southwest Conference Championships from 1982-1985 and was named an All-American all four times.
All three teams could potentially give the Longhorns a run for its money, but the team’s goal is to take the tournament one game at a time and the Bobcats are the first road block to a title.
“It’s the best Texas State squad they have ever had,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We aren’t looking ahead. Our focus is Texas State and Texas State only.”