It didn’t take long for Gregory Gym to get going.
Kills courtesy of junior outside hitter Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani and redshirt freshman Brionne Butler got Texas off to a quick 2-0 lead in the first set. That’s when Stanford’s Kathryn Plummer happened.
The 2017 AVCA National Player of the Year drilled one of her 18 kills down the touch line, putting Stanford on the board. The Cardinal scored the next three points and didn’t look back for the rest of the match.
In the last non-conference game for No. 3 Texas, it finished out a home-and-home series with No. 2 Stanford on the wrong end. The Cardinal completed a 3-1 win (25-16, 25-18, 20-25, 25-18) and won their third-straight game against the Longhorns dating back to last season.
“I think they’re a really good volleyball team,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Stanford puts a ton of pressure on you … they just did a good job of just staying steady the whole night.”
Texas started off on the wrong note, quickly falling behind. The Longhorns dropped the first set in part due to Stanford’s relentless attack and a stagnant offense. A majority of Texas’ attempts were met at the net by multiple Stanford players, keeping a potent Texas attack at bay.
The Longhorns couldn’t help themselves either. Service errors hurt Texas in crucial spots, especially in the second set as it tried to fight back. As more balls sailed over the touch line, Stanford continued to cash in on Texas’ mistakes.
“We were just putting a lot of pressure on ourselves and try to make sure we got it (the ball) in,” freshman outside hitter Logan Eggleston said. “We were kind of overdoing it and making a few errors.”
Texas found a glimmer of hope in the third set, jumping out to 6-2 and eventually 17-12 advantage. The Longhorns, courtesy of Butler and White, dictated the terms for the majority of the set and held off a late Stanford push to give them their first set win over Stanford in the last nine tries.
Butler, who had nine kills of the night, proved to be a force in the middle. Her ability to reach up for set balls helped her get them past Stanford’s front line and stifle Stanford’s attack. Her presence as a middle blocker prevented dominant senior middle blocker Tami Alade from taking over the game.
“We were just a tad late blocking a lot tonight,” Elliott said. “We had a lot of balls just rattle off us and get through and score on us.”
Texas didn’t make too much noise in the fourth set, letting Stanford go ahead early and eventually falling to finish the game. That set closed out one of the Longhorns’ toughest pre-conference schedule in recent years and gave Elliott a good look at where his team is at.
“I think we got a really good team. I think we got a lot of work to do,” Elliott said. “I would imagine that (Stanford) is the best team in the country right now and that’s the benchmark. Overall, we believe we can continue to get better.”
Conference play looms for Texas, and the road to a Big 12 title will not be easy. With teams like Kansas State, No. 18 Baylor and Iowa State, the Longhorns will have their hands full for the remainder of the season. On top of that, Texas would need a near perfect record to maintain a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
However, there’s no lack of confidence in the Texas locker room.
“We’ve been really good at doing the things we wanted to do,” Bedart-Ghani said. “Just keep a united front and staying together and that’s been a key focus and we’ve been doing really good at that.”
The Longhorns jump into a Big 12 play this Wednesday as they travel to Manhattan, Kansas, to face Kansas State. First serve is set for 6 p.m.