OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. ? No. 2 Texas Volleyball (29-3) fell to BYU (30-4), 3-1 (23-25, 16-25, 25-17, 24-26) in the NCAA Semifinals to end its season on Thursday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Sophomore Chiaka Ogbogu posted a career-high 14 kills, hitting .500 and also added a team-high eight blocks for the Longhorns.
Seniors Haley Eckerman and Khat Bell added nine kills each. Bell also contributed seven blocks.
Three players recorded double-digit digs, as freshman Cat McCoy led with 14 and juniors Amy Neal and Kat Brooks finished with 10 each.
Sophomores Nicole Dalton and Chloe Collins had 23 and 21 assists, respectively.
As a team, Texas posted its lowest hitting percentage of the season at .162 and was out-blocked, 17.0 to 14.5.
Sophomore Paulina Prieto Cerame led the longhorns to an early 2-0 lead, but after that a back and forth battle with 15 tied scores kept the Horns rallying their way through the first set. A set of BYU attack errors helped the Longhorns gain the momentum to go on a 5-1 run to widen the gap, but BYU answered closely after to steal the lead and take set one, 25-23. Neither team led by more than three points in the first set.
The second set took off at a different speed and the Horns could not answer. The Cougars’ defense stepped up and recorded six blocks that Texas couldn’t find its way around. After a Texas timeout, it went on a 4-0 run which then forced BYU to sacrifice its first timeout of the set. Texas couldn’t hang on and BYU took the second set, 25-16.
In the third set, Texas hit .357 to terminate the Cougars chance of a clean sweep. Blocks by Ogbogu and Bell sparked a 3-0 lead and forced BYU to take its first timeout early in the set. Texas took the lead at 18-17 with a BYU service error and kept it as it finished the match (25-17) on a 8-0 run and limited BYU to a .093 hitting percentage.
The two teams played evenly in the fourth set with a 12-12 tie before BYU pulled ahead by three after a kill by Amy Boswell. The rally continued, but Texas found its rhythm late in the set with a kill by Ogbogu that yielded a 3-0 Texas run and a forced BYU timeout. Texas then pulled ahead at 20-19 on an Eckerman kill, but BYU answered and took eventually took a 24-23 advantage. The Longhorns survived the first match point, but the Cougars found themselves back in the driver’s seat at 25-24 and were able to close to win the match, 3-1.
Jennifer Hamson led the Cougars with 22 kills, 10 digs and seven blocks.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by the Longhorns of the University of Texas. Coach, your thoughts on tonight’s game.
COACH ELLIOTT: I thought BYU played exceptionally well. Their block caused a lot of problems for us. They got a lot of good touches and a lot of blocks and that took us out of our offense a bit.
But I felt as the match went on we were gaining more and more control. We won Game 3 and I thought we were in a good position to win Game 4. And I think I can’t comment on refereeing, but I can comment where I think the sport needs to go and I think we need to look at some instant replays and some abilities to make some calls, because it’s difficult when you get a two-point switch and your kids tried as hard as they did.
A lot of that was a tribute to what BYU did and hats off to what they accomplished tonight. I thought our kids came in prepared. I thought they fought really hard.
They gave us a chance to get back, and I’m just really proud of what this team has accomplished this year and what Khat Bell and Haley have done for this program and it’s always hard when you’re not ending the season with a W.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. You know all week long that BYU is the best blocking team in the country, but when you’re actually facing that block, how different or how difficult is it compared to what you were expecting or maybe thinking it would be, Haley?
HALEY ECKERMAN: I mean, we knew they were big, that they were obviously the top blocking team. And we had practice with that. Every day in our gym we have practice.
We have girls like Chi who touches 11 foot. We have a big block. They came in, they did amazing. They knew how to control the game. And we fought back and you can tell everyone was trying to change things up and we were trying to manage and work hard with that and they ended up still getting out with it.
Q. Khat, seemed like they were able to take you out of system a lot in Games 1 and 2, and then you guys got back into it a little bit in Game 3, ran the middle more, strutting it a little bit. Did you feel like the serve/receive was a big part of the difference in the match tonight, up and down?
KHAT BELL: I think all aspects of our game going from either from serve receive to blocking and picking good spots. It affected us negatively and positively, I think.
I think it’s a change in playing with the middles a lot more, getting them involved in the game is what made a difference for sure. They were able to spread the offense a lot more and get the BYU’s middles to bite a little bit. So it helped.
Q. Haley and Khat, it’s fairly common in the Final Four, teams who aren’t used to playing from behind find themselves in positions playing behind. How did you guys feel that you reacted getting behind and having to battle back?
HALEY ECKERMAN: Especially Khat and I, we’ve been through that. This season, our past career games, we’ve been through that. And we knew we had to look each other in the eyes. And it showed. It showed we weren’t going to give up and we had that fight and we came out of the locker room and knew it wasn’t over yet. We weren’t going to go down without a fight.
And it’s hard as a loss but we know that we fought and that that game could have gone either way. And if we would have gone into a fifth set, I think that our fight, we knew that we could take over a game.
Q. For any of the girls, because you can’t get fined by the NCAA, he can: What were your thoughts about the tipped call?
HALEY ECKERMAN: Jerritt talked about how much of a momentum change it had. I think going into that if we could have taken that point, I think we knew we weren’t going to give up. And just like in our game last weekend, we found that fight and we had that fight and we could see it in each other’s eyes in that timeout right before that we weren’t going to give up. So it’s kind of hard when you gotta go out like that.
Q. Ball touched?
HALEY ECKERMAN: No, promise you that.
Q. Coach, BYU played basically a perfect match the first two sets. And did you think your kids kind of pressed a little bit after that?
COACH ELLIOTT: No, I thought we responded really well, Game 3. Game 2 could have gone any way – or Game 1 could have gone either way.
It was very, very tight. 25-deuce game. It’s a challenge. Game 2, I thought we just kind of fell apart, their block did a great job. And they were on fire.
We just couldn’t sustain the mentality of the pressure that they put on from that. But in Game 3 we came out, played at a very high level, thought our blocking caught fire. We put ourselves in a position with serve/receive, to get our middles a lot more involved, which we wanted to do.
And ultimately, I think the last game it was a deuce game. But it could have gone the other way, with other circumstances that occurred. And I thought our team fought hard.
But when we were getting more momentum, I thought – I told our team: We get this game, they’re in trouble because I thought Hamson was getting tired, just from the pure amount of swings that she was taking. And her numbers were dropping significantly as that match was going on.
We were starting to get more touches and we were doing a better job defending her. And here physicality wasn’t going over the block as much. I felt that was going to be a big key. And I felt really good – I saw that ball go out and saw our chance to serve the match.
Q. You’ve had two great seasons but two disappointing finishes at the Final Four. What do you tell the players who are coming back to keep the fire stoked? You worked so hard all season and then just come up a point or two short.
COACH ELLIOTT: This is a cruel profession. One team walks away the champion. And whether we lost tonight or whether we were to have lost on Saturday, still you’ve got to be able to kind of reflect – what we do is every year we go back, we give them a break.
Then I give them a list of questions about every little part of our program, how I coach, what our practices are like, how our travel is, things that helped us get to the point, things that maybe we didn’t do well to get over the hump to win so that I can kind of create my little bible of how to get them back on pace and get them organized and get them motivated again.
This is a competitive group. I was blown away last weekend. I didn’t realize we’ve been to nine straight Elite Eights and six out of last seven Final Fours. We’ve been in this situation five out of the six times we’ve been to the Final Four.
We’ve got to get back, look at some things. Now we’ve got some different personnel. And we’ll get them motivated. But right now it’s time to rest and reflect. And it’s a long, long season.
Q. On that same note, looking back at your season as a whole, did this team meet, possibly fall short, or even surpass your expectations?
COACH ELLIOTT: I think the goals at Texas now are the standards we’ve created. If we don’t get to a Final Four it’s a disappointing season, which is sad in the sports, in coaching, but I think we reached two of our goals, was to get back to the Final Four and win the Big 12, which we did.
We’re devastated that we didn’t win. We thought we had a chance. We thought we had a chance tonight. I felt like Stanford and Penn State were the two best teams but I thought we had a good fighting chance to give a shot at that.
And I will take – I’ll make my staff take a rest and we’ll get back, watch film, learn what we need to do and get back at it again. That’s what you do. You pick up the pieces and build a new puzzle and try to figure it out again. That’s the fun part.
Q. Have you had a chance to see the replay of that point, 25-25? If not, is that something that you’ll head back to the hotel and look at right away?
COACH ELLIOTT: I’ve not seen it. But I’ve received numerous texts. But, again, I’m not going to get into that.
My disappointment is probably just where the angle it was called from. It’s human error. That’s why I’m saying the NCAA needs to look at it. This game is going so fast. And it’s a two-point switch.
If it was basketball, a player missed a basketball shot, the other team got two points, it’s a big difference. So you just want to give the athletes the best chance for them to settle on the floor.
And that’s all we want as coaches. That’s all we want as players. That’s all I would imagine the NCAA would want as well. When you’ve got a 6’7″ girl touching as high as she does, how minute those touches are and how close they are, it’s challenging.
We saw some calls class week that I think Nebraska and Washington were very tight. And I think with instant replay you get to do it right. That’s all we’re asking is just to be fair. We can’t just blame one person on this.
Q. As a team, you were held to a season low hitting percentage, Haley Eckerman held to a season low hitting percentage. Just what about the BYU defense made it so tough for you tonight?
COACH ELLIOTT: If you don’t block – if you can pass you’re going to deal with their blocks. We were passing under 1.9. I think we steadied that a lot more. I think Molly only had two sets in the first two games.
And we were able to kind of get their middle going. You’ll have to run the middle on the right side a lot. With the 6’2″ situation and our ball control situation we don’t have a back court attack.
It would have been nice to have been able to counter some of that with our back row attack when we’re off the net. But you gotta live and die that.
When you have Hamson out there and Young that are doing such a nice job out there – the least correlated stat to winning championships is blocking. But they’re proving that stat wrong when they put up 17 stuffed blocks in a game.
Q. Last year everybody said you overlooked Wisconsin. Is that the case today as well with BYU, or were they just that good?
COACH ELLIOTT: No, I was very comfortable with the way that our team prepared today. I mean, I told our staff: Look, if we don’t win this match it wasn’t because we didn’t prepare the right way, it wasn’t because of the talk we had.
I think they learned their lesson last year. I think it was a valuable lesson. But they gave a tremendous amount of respect to BYU. When you’re blocking like they are and you’re getting first ball kills like they are, it can be overwhelming. You don’t have an answer. And you just keep getting slugged.
Until we got on a path – we were able to get our middles going and change the transition game a little bit. I thought they were starting to slow down physically. And that’s what we were hoping to do is get into that fifth set and give us a little more of a charge. I thought our passing was picking up and we did some nice things.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Game Notes: BYU 3, No. 2 Texas 1
- BYU is now 40-26 all-time in NCAA matches and 1-1 all-time in NCAA Semifinal contests. The Cougars’ last appearance came in 1993.
- BYU’s semifinal win is its first in program history. Head coach Shawn Olmstead will make his first career coaching appearance in an NCAA Final on Saturday.
- Texas drops to 79-29 (.731) all-time in NCAA Tournament matches. The Longhorns were making their 10th all-time NCAA Semifinal appearance.
Individual & Team Notes…
- BYU now leads Texas 10-8 all-time. The Cougars last defeated Texas on Sept. 6, 1997 (3-0).
- The Cougars are now riding a 12-match winning streak and have not lost a match since Oct. 30, 2014.
- With the victory, BYU is 9-1 in four-set matches this season. The Cougars have not surrendered more than a single set to any opponent in the NCAA Tournament this season.
- BYU last defeated a top-two team on Sept. 20, 2013, a 3-0 victory over San Diego.
- BYU is only the second team this season to earn a set victory over Texas in NCAA Tournament play.
- The Cougars are now 27-1 this season when winning the first set of a match. Prior to Thursday, the Longhorns had not dropped the first set of a match since Nov. 19 (vs. Baylor).
- BYU senior Jennifer Hamson logged 22 kills and 10 digs against Texas, marking her sixth double-double this season and her third in NCAA Tournament action.
- Hamson’s team-high 22 kills marked the 24th time this season she has recorded a 10-plus kills in a single match and the fifth time she has posted 20-plus. The Cougars are 22-3 when Hamson records 10-plus kills in a match.
- BYU junior Alexa Gray’s 19 kills boosted her single-season total to 496, just 20 shy of Chelsea Goodman’s BYU record (516, 2007).
- BYU out-blocked the Longhorns 17-14.5, marking the Cougars’ 30th victory when out-blocking an opponent in 2014. BYU’s semifinal win marks the first time this season the Cougars have defeated an opponent that posted 12-plus blocks in the contest.
- Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott was denied his 400th career victory with the Longhorns’ loss to BYU.
- The Longhorns had dropped only one set in the 2014 NCAA Tournament entering Thursday’s match.
- Texas was out-blocked for just the third time in 30 matches this season. BYU led the blocking battle 17.0-14.5 on Thursday.
- The Longhorns were out-hit for just the second time in the last 54 matches. Texas hit .162 to BYU’s .209. The .162 hitting efficiency was a season low for the Longhorns.
- Texas middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu charted a career-high 14 kills to lead the Longhorns. Her previous high in kills was 12 at Oklahoma on Nov. 15, 2014. It was Ogbogu’s seventh time to reach double-figure kills this season and her third time in the last four matches.
- Ogbogu hit .500 in the match, marking the 25th time this season she has hit .300 or better.
- With five blocks in the match, Texas’ Molly McCage moved up to sixth on Texas’ all-time career block assists list with 357. She surpassed Katie Austin (1995-98), who accumulated 353 career block assists.
- Texas seniors Khat Bell and Haley Eckerman conclude their Texas careers with a 104-14 (.881) record and comprise the only senior class in school history to win four Big 12 Championships.
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