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Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas ended a lackluster weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska, with a 6–2 loss to Nebraska on Sunday afternoon.

With the win, the Cornhuskers completed a three-game sweep of the Longhorns (17–11, 5–1 Big 12).

Texas fell behind early Sunday as Nebraska opened up a 2–0 lead in the first inning. Cornhuskers sophomore infielder Jake Schleppenbach started Nebraska’s offensive threat in the first before senior infielder Blake Headley scored Schleppenbach on an RBI double. Headley came around to score on a single by senior outfielder Austin Darby. 

The Longhorns were able to get two quick outs in the third inning, but the Cornhuskers rallied to add two runs. Senior catcher Tanner Lubach hit a single up the middle, followed by a single by Darby. Lubach then scored on a double by freshman outfielder Elijah Dilday, and Darby scored on a single by freshman infielder Scott Schreiber. 

Texas starting pitcher junior Chad Hollingsworth’s day was over in the third after giving up six runs on 10 hits. Junior Travis Duke relieved Hollingsworth and gave up a single, which extended Nebraska’s lead to 6–0.

Both offenses were quiet until the ninth inning, but, with the Longhorns down six runs, Texas tried to rally. Junior left fielder Ben Johnson hit a leadoff double down the left field line before senior right fielder Collin Shaw hit a two-run to cut into Nebraska’s lead.

Sophomore catcher Tres Barrera followed Shaw’s homer with a single, but the Cornhuskers soon ended the Longhorns’ rally.

Despite the two-run home run in the ninth, Texas’ offense showed little production Sunday, something the team had struggled with throughout the series. The Longhorns tallied five hits on Sunday, with three coming in the ninth. Texas was held to a combined seven hits and one run in Friday’s and Saturday’s games.

The Longhorns have continued to struggle on the road as the three-game sweep lowers Texas’ road record to 5–8.

Texas will look to rebound against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Photo Credit: Thalia Juarez | Daily Texan Staff

For six years, the rivalry between Texas and Nebraska on the diamond was fierce.

From 2001 to 2007, the Big 12 baseball regular season title either went to Austin or Lincoln, Nebraska. The two schools combined to win eight conference tournament titles in that stretch.

But when the last round of conference realignment commenced a few years ago, the rivalry faded. Nebraska moved to the Big Ten after the 2011 season, and Texas failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2012 and 2013.

As both teams climb back into the national picture — Texas made the College World Series last year and Nebraska has become a force in the Big Ten — they’ll renew the rivalry with a three-game series in Lincoln this weekend.

“I’m excited [for the rivalry] on a personal level,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “It’s going to be an interesting matchup and an interesting weekend.”

Texas currently holds a slight 31–28 advantage in the series, but they haven’t always held the lead. Nebraska won four of the six meetings before the two schools joined the Big 12 and then won six series between the two from 1997 to 2006.

The Longhorns, however, have the upper hand in the latter parts of in-conference rivalry, winning four of the last five series.

Nebraska has fallen on harder times since leaving the Big 12 after the 2011 season. The Cornhuskers failed to reach the NCAA Tournament in 2012 and 2013 and lost in the Stillwater Regional in last year’s tournament.

This year, Nebraska looks to be getting back on pace. The Cornhuskers have won 11 of their last 12 games, including a series split with Cal State Fullerton and a three-game sweep of Michigan.

Nebraska senior infielder Blake Headly has led the charge offensively with a team-leading .549 slugging percentage and 23 RBIs, and senior ace Kyle Kubat has dominated on the mound with a 4–0 record and a 1.60 ERA.

“They’ve come around to build that program now to a championship-type program, and the level of competition will be really good,” Garrido said.

Texas is also coming in hot, riding a four-game winning streak, which includes a sweep of Kansas State and a come-from-behind win at Texas State on Tuesday.

The Longhorns have also drilled 18 home runs already this season and sport a .425 slugging percentage. Sophomore first baseman/catcher Tres Barrera said hitting has become contagious.

“It’s fun to see a guy like Collin Shaw, who hasn’t hit a home run in his whole career, hitting balls out of the ballpark,” Barrera said. “Zane Gurwitz, one of the smallest guys in the lineup, is hitting the ball out of the ballpark.”

Texas resumes Big 12 action with a three-game series beginning April 3 against conference contender Oklahoma State.

OKLAHOMA CITY–The most overused cliché in sports is the David vs. Goliath story, where the underdog team finds a way to win against a team they weren’t supposed to beat.

It’s a feel good, Cinderella story that almost everyone roots for—everyone that is, except for the team that is looking to win and advance.

Headed into its national semifinal match, Texas finds itself in this very situation facing a BYU team that almost no one outside of Provo, Utah, would have picked to make it this far.

“We’re ready to play,” senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman said. “It doesn’t matter who it is. We’re just ready to battle.”

While Texas spent the entire season ranked inside the top ten in the AVCA coach’s poll, BYU fluttered in and out of the top ten. Despite finishing the year with a 25-4 record, the Cougars ended up 17th in the RPI and had to travel for the first and second rounds.

Along the way to the Final Four, BYU sprung upset after upset, taking down No. 11 Arizona, No. 6 Florida State and capping it all off with a dominant 3-0 sweep of No. 14 Nebraska in the Seattle Region final on Saturday.

“Now, we're just in a position that these kids, there's some sort of confirmation of their hard work in terms of they're the ones that put out this goal,” said BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead. “To be able to actually see a plan in place in life and here it is and here's what we've got to do to get there, I mean, that's pretty darn remarkable.”

On the other hand, Texas breezed through its first three matches of the tournament, including wins over Arizona State and No. 15 Colorado State while not dropping a single set; however, the Longhorns met a formidable opponent in North Carolina in the Minneapolis Region final.

After taking the first set, the Longhorns struggled against the Tar Heels as North Carolina rolled off point after point en route to a 25-18 set win to take all of the momentum into intermission. But Texas rolled out in the second half of the match taking the third set and then surviving a marathon fourth set to advance to its third-straight Final Four.

Eckerman, who was triple-block most of that night by the Tar Heels, said that there are a number of things they can take from that match over to their semifinal meeting with BYU, especially not underestimating any team.

“North Carolina played amazing against us and challenged us,” Eckerman said. “It showed that when we are challenged, in the fourth set especially, if we look each other in the eyes and know we can do this, then we can come out and win.”

But BYU isn’t planning on backing down now that they’ve made it this far and they’re not necessarily taking on that underdog role.

“Honestly I haven't thought too much about it,” Olmstead said. “These kids haven't worried too much about that either.”

The Cougars bread and butter this season has been their block. BYU led the country with 441 total blocks and 3.87 blocks per set and posted 12 blocks in the win over Nebraska. Up front the Cougars are led by a trio of blockers in sophomores Whitney Young and Amy Boswell and senior Jennifer Hamson who each have 1.35 blocks per set or more this season.

But Eckerman said that North Carolina trying to block her with three people has helped her prepare for BYU’s block.

“It showed on the last kill I got that I had to take different swings,” Eckerman said. “That’s the thing about being an outside hitter is that you have to manage.”

Hamson has also been great for the Cougars on the attack as well, posting 3.75 kills per set, including nine against Nebraska. Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said that they have to make sure they contain her.

“She can play at a very high above the net,” Elliott said. “She can pretty much go over us if she's in rhythm and able to score. And when she's on fire, she's one of the best players in the country.”

If Texas were to win the semifinal match, a difficult match in the championship would await with Stanford and Penn State squaring off in the other semifinal Thursday night.

Stanford comes into its semifinal match after being the top team in the coach’s poll since Sept. 8, the first poll after they defeated Penn State on Sept. 5 in a five-set thriller. The Cardinal come with the second-highest hitting percentage of the four teams remaining at .316 and junior setter Madi Bugg leads the nation with 12.11 assists per set.

“We had a great match with them and one of our goals certainly this year is to be one of the teams that works to get better every week,” Dunning said.

Penn State comes in looking to score a championship in the home area of senior setter Micha Hancock, who’s from Edmond, Oklahoma. Hancock, who leads the fifth-seeded Nittany Lions 11.53 assists per set and leads the country with 1.03 aces per set, said she was initially excited to play the Final Four in her home state, though it has come with distractions.

“When I found out it was here I was like, no way, it’s my senior year and there’s nothing more to get back here to have a chance to compete for the championship,” Hancock said. “It’s one game at a time for me and my team to see what we can do.”

But the task at hand for the Longhorns is to beat an unseeded BYU team. In each of the last two trips to the Final Four, Texas is 1-1 against unseeded teams in the national semifinal—beating Michigan 3-2 in 2012 and losing 3-1 to Wisconsin last year. And with the goal seeming to always be to get to the Final Four, Elliott said they’re ready to get another shot at winning it all.

“We've got another great opportunity in front of us with BYU,” Elliott said. “And hopefully we can make our university proud by the way we fight and get out there and compete.”

Junior Amy Neal and the No. 2 Longhorns are perfect so far this season despite challenges early on. They look to carry the momentum to No. 25 Kansas State.

Photo Credit: Madison Richards | Daily Texan Staff

Head coach Jerritt Elliott likes to test his team.

Already this season, the No. 2 Longhorns have played road matches in tough environments against No. 8 Florida and No. 10 Nebraska, faced inadvertent adversity when their schedule changed between the Nebraska and West Virginia matches and had a string of three matches in five days.

But with a 13-0 overall record and a 5-0 conference record, the Longhorns have passed all of Elliott’s tests.

Now, after over a week off from playing, Texas will get another test, traveling up to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on No. 25 Kansas State (17-2,4-1 Big 12) Saturday at 7 p.m.

“We need to be as uncomfortable as possible when we go to these environments, and it’s going to help us, come NCAA Tournament time,” Elliott said.

While Texas has had tremendous success against Kansas State on the road, going 14-4 all-time in Ahearn Field House, the Longhorns have had some trouble with ranked Wildcats.

In 2007 and 2008, when Kansas State was ranked No. 17 and No. 14, respectively, Texas had to go five sets to secure victories in Manhattan. The Longhorns’ last road loss to the Wildcats — who were ranked No. 8 in the country at the time — came in 2003.

This time around, Kansas State comes in on a four-match winning streak with a 17-2 record. The Wildcats also finally cracked the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 this past week.

“They’re on a hot winning streak and play really good at home,” Elliott said. “It’s a tough environment, but we need to be in these environments to see what we can do.”

The Wildcats are the most dangerous on the defensive end. Kansas State is third in the Big 12, with 15.46 digs per set — led by sophomore libero Kersten Kober with 267 digs — and second in the conference with 3.06 blocks per set.

Elliott said that this is likely their biggest conference match so far this season.

“I thought Kansas was going to be [real tough], and we were able to pull that out in four games,” Elliott said. “But Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma are really some big road tests that we’re going to have to face.”

Still, the Longhorns have yet to lose a match this season and have dropped only six of 45 sets, as sophomore middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu leads the conference with a .410 hitting percentage while three Longhorns ranked in the top 10 in blocks per set.

Senior Khat Bell (1) and Texas will play in their Big 12 home opener against Iowa State on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

After a rough start to last week, head coach Jerritt Elliott gave his volleyball team a couple of days off to rest and relax.

The Longhorns held off a tough Nebraska team on Sept. 20, survived a test at West Virginia on Wednesday and had to deal with travel issues, which cost Texas the chance to come back to Austin in between games. 

“Emotionally, we hadn’t given them a lot of time off because our schedule and how hard we were going,” Elliott said.

Now well rested and riding the momentum of an undefeated season, Texas will open up its Big 12 home schedule Wednesday against Iowa State, a team that has given them fits in the past.

The Longhorns got their dose of adversity last week, defeating longtime rival Nebraska in front of over 8,000 fans in Lincoln, Nebraska. They then had to stay in Nebraska for an extra day because of issues with a charter plane.

From there, the team flew straight to Morgantown, West Virginia, where their Big 12 opener was their toughest fight yet. Texas dropped the opening two sets to West Virginia but battled through to take a 3-2 comeback victory.

“As a coach, you don’t want to go into those games and be in those situations, but there’s part of you that wants to be in those situations and learn how to come out of it,” Elliott said.

Up until the last two games, the Longhorns hadn’t exactly had to deal with a serious challenge. They won 3-1 against Florida at the start of the month — but won every other match in a sweep.

However, having to go to five sets in the last two matches has given the team valuable experience it can use going on further this season, Elliott said.

“It was the first time that we had been uncomfortable and uneasy,” said Elliott about the West Virginia game. “It was the first time as a coaching staff where we had to figure out how to handle this team.”

While the Longhorns have opened up the season undefeated, their opponent this week has struggled. Iowa State comes in 7-4 so far, but lost to TCU on Saturday to open up conference play and has lost all three of its games against ranked opponents.

But the Cyclones are known to give the Longhorns trouble. They’re the only team to defeat Texas in conference play within the past two years.

Elliott said one of the reasons the Cyclones are a tough win is because of their never-say-die attitude and discipline.

“When you [have] the combination of those characteristics you can be a very tough team to play,” Elliott said.

The match is one of two tough matches for the Longhorns in the span of five days. The team will travel to Lawrence, Kansas, on Sunday to face the Jayhawks, who were ranked before losing to Oklahoma.

“[Our opponents] were preseason picks to finish two and three in our conference,” Elliott said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Longhorns had one of the hardest non-conference schedules this season, playing three ranked teams, including Florida and Nebraska on the road.

But it was the Big 12 opener at West Virginia where they found their toughest test yet.

Trailing 2-0 at intermission, No. 2 Texas battled back to win the final three sets, ending the match at 3-2 and avoiding an upset.

The Longhorns (9-0, 1-0 Big 12) struggled from the start against a Mountaineers team that had previously dropped each of their matches against ranked teams in straight sets. After Texas tied the first set at 12, West Virginia (10-4, 0-1) fired off a 6-0 run, behind kills from West Virginia sophomore outside hitter Jordan Anderson, to take an 18-12 lead. While the Longhorns would later tie the set again at 23, the Mountaineers scored the final two points to take the set.

The second set was nearly identical to the first, with neither side able to break away until West Virginia unleashed an 8-5 run, taking a 19-16 lead and ultimately winning it 25-19.

But after posting a season-low .172 hitting percentage in the first two sets, the Longhorns came back after intermission on fire, opening on a 12-6 run to take control of the set and the match. In the fourth set, Texas opened on 12-4 run, winning the set 25-18 and forcing a fifth set.

The fifth set was more of the same, with the Longhorns in complete control of the match on a 10-4 run to seal the win.

Outside hitters senior Haley Eckerman and sophomore Paulina Prieto Cerame led the Longhorns’ attack with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Texas returns home to face Iowa State on Wednesday.

Senior Khat Bell and Texas open up Big 12 play Wednesday at West Virginia.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Following the loss of Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri after the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the Big 12 isn’t quite what it once was.

Still, as Texas opens Big 12 play tonight at West Virginia, head coach Jerritt Elliott believes in the strength of the conference.

“There are a lot of quality teams,” Elliott said. “There are a lot of young teams that are getting better.”

The Big 12 currently has two teams in the AVCA top-25 ranking — Texas at No. 2 and Kansas at No. 23. Although unranked, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma received votes in the latest rankings released Monday.

The Pac-12 leads the country with seven teams in the top 25 while the Big Ten has six. Both conferences also have two teams in the top five.

The Longhorns have won the last three Big 12 championships with a combined record of 46-2 in conference play, including a perfect 16-0 during the 2013 season.

Still, Elliott said Texas has to be ready to play in every game in its conference schedule.

“Anybody can give you a run for your money when you’re not ready,” Elliott said.

The Longhorns come into their season opener undefeated, winning all but three of the 27 sets they played. They also knocked off two ranked opponents on the road in tough environments, including a 3-2 win in Nebraska this past Saturday.

A big part of the success has come at the net, where Texas has registered 356 kills, 87 total blocks and a .282 attack percentage — more than double its opponents’ .126 hitting percentage.

Even with all of the success the Longhorns have had this season, Elliott said they still have room for improvement.

“We’re not even close to where we can be later in the season,” Elliott said.

West Virginia comes in 10-3 this season, but that record is a bit deceiving. No. 12 North Carolina swept the Mountaineers on Saturday, and West Virginia has yet to beat a team in the top 25.

The Mountaineers’ attack is led by sophomore outside hitter Jordan Anderson, who has tallied 99 digs and 206 kills with a .284 hitting percentage. West Virginia has also hit 49 aces, led by freshman setter Lamprini Konstantinidou’s 16.

“West Virginia brings in a lot of people for the game, and we know it’s going to be a challenge,” Elliott said.

Sophomore outside hitter Amy Neal still feels the Nebraska rivalry exists, even after Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten. For the third time in two years, the rivals will meet Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas expected a tough battle against former Big 12 volleyball rival Nebraska over the weekend, and it certainly got one.

The Longhorns needed five sets Saturday for the first time this season to pull out a 3-2 win over Nebraska. Senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman, Amy Neal, junior libero and outside hitter, and Khat Bell, senior middle blocker and outside hitter, all recorded double-digit kills.

“We had a hard time finding our rhythm today,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Nebraska played well, but we just couldn’t get our offensive system going, and we made a lot of errors that we haven’t been making.”

The battle started early on in the first set of the match for Texas. Neither side led by more than two points, with 13 ties throughout the set. However, Texas managed to close the set out 25-23 on a 5-2 run behind two kills each from Eckerman and Neal.

“We were fortunate to pull out game number one or else this could have been a different match,” Elliott said.

Momentum from the first set victory faded quickly in the second set. The Cornhuskers took an early 12-7 lead and never looked back. Although the Longhorns tied the set at 17 on a 6-2 run eventually, they were outscored 8-4 the rest of the set and fell 25-21.

The environment in Lincoln, stands packed with 8,312 fans, shook some of the new players on the court, especially early in the match.

“They couldn’t settle down,” Elliott said. “We challenged them pretty strongly in the locker room between games two and three, and I felt like we slowly got better as the match went on.”

Texas came out of the intermission break much stronger than it had been in the second set, taking a 9-6 lead before Nebraska fought back to a slim 13-11 go-ahead. However, unlike the second set, the Longhorns didn’t let the Cornhuskers’ run take over the match. Instead, they executed a 7-1 run to win the set 25-19.

In the fourth set, Texas found itself in a favorable position to close out the match, leading 14-11. But when Nebraska pulled off a 9-2 run, including seven straight points, to take a 20-15 lead, the Longhorns couldn’t rebound. Eckerman’s three kills elevated the Longhorns to a 23-22 lead, but a late 3-0 run gave the set to the Cornhuskers.

In contrast to the first four sets, Texas dominated the fifth set much more smoothly. The Longhorns jumped out to a 10-6 lead and closed with a 5-2 run to take the win.

Elliott said the team finally found its rhythm in the last set.

“We stayed a little more consistent, and I thought [Nebraska] started making some more errors and gave us some opportunities to widen the gap there,” Elliott said. “When you are a good blocking team and you play good defense, you can wear your opponent down.”

The victory marks Texas’ second win against a ranked opponent on the road this season. Eckerman led the Longhorns with 20 kills, while Neal posted a career day with 15 kills and 15 digs.

The Longhorns open up conference play Wednesday on the road against West Virginia.

Sophomore outside hitter Amy Neal still feels the Nebraska rivalry exists, even after Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten. For the third time in two years, the rivals will meet Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Before the latest round of conference realignment, the Big 12 volleyball championship usually went through Austin or Lincoln, Nebraska.

Since the conference’s inception in 1996, Texas and Nebraska have a combined 17 conference titles and finished first and second eight times. And even after the Cornhuskers left for the Big Ten, the rivalry between the schools has continued.

“It’s always been crazy, and I think it’s just as big as when they were [in the Big 12],” junior outside hitter Amy Neal said.

The two top-10 teams will write a new chapter in the rivalry Saturday at 2 p.m. when they face off in Lincoln.

“It’s what makes this sport fun,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We get an opportunity to play one of the premier programs in the country.”

Overall, the stats show that Nebraska has dominated the rivalry. The Cornhuskers boast a 30-19 record over the Longhorns and took home 11 conference titles while they were in the Big 12.

In a stretch from 1994 to 2000, Nebraska beat Texas in 10 of 12 matches, including a 3-1 win in the 1995 national championship game. After Elliott was hired as the head coach in 2001, it took the Longhorns 10 matches to finally defeat the Cornhuskers.

“They used to eat our lunch pretty bad when I got here,” Elliott said.

But in recent years, the tide has turned. The Longhorns have won six of the past seven meetings. Last year in the regular season, Texas battled to a 3-2 win in Austin.

Then the rivalry went to the next level when the two faced off in the Lincoln Regional final with a Final Four spot on the line. Despite the Cornhuskers’ home-court advantage, the Longhorns managed to hand them a sweep. 

“I’m sure they’re focused on trying to be able to redeem themselves,” Elliott said.

The trip to Lincoln is the second time in three weeks the Longhorns will face a top-tier team in a tough environment. On Sept. 6, they beat then No. 11 Florida in Gainesville. Elliott said he likes scheduling tough matches in the nonconference season to get his team ready for conference play and the postseason.

“We need to put our team in some environments that are chaotic and tough to play in, and Nebraska provides that,” Elliott said.

The No. 2 Longhorns (7-0) come into this meeting undefeated and having only dropped one of their 22 sets this year. Texas’ eight players with double-digit kills and six players with 30 or more kills have created a balanced and deep attack.

Neal said the deep lineup and tough competition has helped the team’s confidence this season.

“In our gym in practice, it’s super competitive, which makes everyone train really hard,” Neal said. “Knowing if someone is struggling, that another person can go in, it builds our confidence in our team.”

Despite its No. 9 ranking, Nebraska (5-2) dropped two matches to top-15 teams earlier this season against No. 6 Florida State and No. 1 Stanford. The Cornhuskers also have just one senior on a roster made up primarily of sophomores.

Still, this latest chapter in the rivalry will likely be the Longhorns’ toughest test so far this season.

“This match doesn’t determine whether our season ends or not,” Elliott said. “We can take this match and learn from it.”

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns are headed back to the Final Four.

Junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman had 14 kills and 15 digs to lead top-seeded Texas to a straight sets win over 8th seed Nebraska and into the semifinals.

Texas will now travel to Seattle, Wash. to face off against No. 12 Wisconsin on Thursday.

Texas, the defending NCAA champion, downed Nebraska (25-19, 25-22, 25-23), the first sweep of Nebraska at home since 1989 and only the fourth sweep of the Huskers ever in Lincoln.

The Longhorns (27-2) dominated the first set, opening up a 6-1 lead and never letting Nebraska (26-7) as the Huskers hit just .106 against the strong Longhorn defense. The second set was tight, but Texas outscored Nebraska 5-2 after a 20-20 tie, taking the win on a block by senior outside hitter Bailey Webster.

Texas trailed for much of the third set but pulled ahead 18-17 on a pair of service aces by sophomore outside hitter Amy Neal and clinched the win on two Webster kills that made the score 24-22.

Webster had 12 kills for the Longhorns. Kelsey Robinson led Nebraska with 21 kills.