The reigning national champions have had something to prove all season. The loss of the 2022 National Player of the Year and early injuries choked the preseason No. 1 team, whose three losses this season have pushed the Longhorns to the brink of the AVCA top-10.
But in two matches against the No. 9 BYU Cougars, No. 10 Texas finally found its voice... and made its statement loud and clear.
For a squad that has averaged a .246 clip all season, starting out the first set with a hitting percentage in the negatives was out of the ordinary for Texas. Eight attack errors and a service error set the Longhorns back to hitting -0.192, as they easily handed the Cougars the first set at a 25-13 margin.
With the jitters now out of their system (no volleyball pun intended), the Longhorns dominated the rest of the conversation. Texas out-blocked BYU 11-6 largely to the credit to Asjia O'Neal's four stops at the net. Hitters Madisen Skinner and Jenna Wenaas combined for 29 kills on the night, while Skinner and Carissa Barnes aced three times apiece at the service line. Hitting an average of .335 over the course of the final three sets, the first match was Texas' for the taking, 3-1.
“I’m super excited for the way this team is growing.”— NCAA Women's Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) September 29, 2023
Freshman setter @ellaswindle_ shares some of her thoughts on this win against No. 9 BYU with @michellachester and what this means for the future of @TexasVolleyball.#NCAAWVB pic.twitter.com/myFn2p7ApZ
According to first-year setter Ella Swindle, urgency was the name of the game for the second match. And the Longhorns burst through the gates with determination, playing from behind throughout the entirety of the first set but forcing eight ties to push the Cougars past the 25-point mark. BYU narrowly took the first set at 28-26, but it was all Texas from there on out.
Bella Bergmark played a career game, tying her season record of six blocks and killing in the double digits — 10 — for the first time this season, registering .412 hitting. Skinner put up her second double-double in as many nights; she killed 15 and dug up 11 in the first match against BYU, and knocked down 14 and dug 18 in the second. And it was Skinner who sealed match point, striking down the kill on the outside for the exclamation point.
These conference wins propel Texas to 9-3 on the season. Now controlling the conversation, the Longhorns glance ahead to more Big 12 play, hosting a doubleheader against No. 19 Kansas next Thursday and Friday. As for BYU, it now posts a 13-3 record and will next face Oklahoma.