Before a sold out crowd in Fort Worth, the Texas Longhorns (9-3) faced the Texas Christian Horned Frogs (10-5) in conference play only to grasp the win in the final moments of a nail-biter between the two teams.
Raising breast cancer awareness, the pink filled standing room only gym watched Horned Frog star, freshman outside hitter Elan McCall (Leander) dominate the court with a total 24 kills over the #4 ranked Longhorns, while Texas looked sloppy and off their game most the night. But, fighting to maintain their top ranking that is crucial to staying in the mix for a regional playoff site, the Longhorns found a way to come out on top of the Horned Frogs who have only defeated Texas once since 2009.
In a sign of things to come, it was rocky from the outset with a challenge by Texas for a called touch by senior middle blocker from Desoto, Morgan Johnson. Texas won the challenge and began to find their rhythm going up 14-9. Junior libero Autumn Rounsaville of Dripping Springs worked the back line digging hard to get her team to 23-18 but TCU started clawing back with six unanswered points to tie it up at 23. After a Texas timeout, the team reset and took the final two points to seal the first set (25-23)
The two teams stayed point for point as the second set started but missteps led to the Horned Frogs moving ahead of the Longhorns 10-8. Ashley Shook, sophomore setter of Plainfield, Illinois, took control and stopped the Horned Frogs momentum with an unanswered dump over the net to maintain the two point gap (Texas 9-11). A kill and serve by freshman outside hitter and 2018 Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year, Logan Eggleston (Brentwood, Tennessee) and a stuff at the net by Freshman middle blocker Brionne Butler (Kendleton, Texas) kept the Longhorns within two (14-16). It wasn’t until a Horned Frog net violation that the Longhorns went up to tie at 16, and a TCU service error allowed junior outside hitter and 2018 Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Micaya White (Frisco) to put Texas up (23-21). Pausing for a Horned Frogs’ timeout, the Longhorns’ Morgan Johnson returned to the court with the kill to take the second (25-22).
Then the momentum changed. TCU jumped on Texas early in the third set (5-1) forcing a Longhorn timeout. Hitting errors plagued Texas while TCU stayed dominant (10-5). Continuing their run, TCU marked their biggest lead of the match (13-6). The Longhorns weren’t defeated yet, inching their way back within two (13-15) until the Horned Frogs earned three straight unanswered points to take them to 18-13. Although the senior outside hitter, Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani (Los Angeles, California) was able to slow TCU’s roll with a kill from the right side, Texas still found themselves down, 21-15 and the third set was TCU’s (25-20).
During the fourth set, the typical synergy between Texas’ Butler and 2017 AVCA All-American Honorable Mention Shook remained absent aiding TCU’s success (7-4). The only thing keeping Texas in the game was freshman libero Sydney Peterson’s (Dyke, Iowa) ups holding the still messy Longhorns’ play within reach. But that wasn’t enough – TCU was scrappy and unyielding in the fourth. The Longhorns finally tied it up at 13 after being down. Continuing to struggle to find their rhythm, the momentum propelled TCU to take the fourth set 25-18.
In Cowtown, it was down to the first 15 pints in the fifth and final set. The big “mo” was certainly in TCU’s favor going into last set with Texas’ hitting percentage as a team in the first four at .168 versus .187 for TCU. However, 2018 Preseason All-Big 12 selection Morgan Johnson and Shook started the final round connecting on two beautiful kills from the middle and the Longhorns finally looked in the zone, going up 5-3. TCU didn’t let that last for long, getting back in quickly, tying it up 7-7. A lead change in the raucous rec center with a Horned Frogs’ kill from McCall in the back row took them up 10-8, but Texas hung on keeping them within striking distance and tying it up at 12. Poise from the Longhorn service line, freshman libero, Jhenna Gabriel (Honolulu, Hawaii) came in to clinch the final two points for Texas to claim the match. It wasn’t pretty but it was a road victory.
Texas finally returns home to Gregory Gym Saturday to face Iowa State at 6PM (CST).
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