By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Whenever Oklahoma and Texas face off on the volleyball court, it’s guaranteed to draw a big crowd even though the Longhorns have dominated the series.
Saturday was no different as the defending national champions poured into Norman to face the Sooners. With McCasland Fieldhouse jam packed with fans, No. 1 Texas prevailed 3-1 in a hard fought match that the Sooners felt they gave away because of early jitters.
“It was pretty obvious,” OU coach Santiago Restrepo said. “You are playing the No. 1 ranked team and you get 2,000 people in the stands. That’s something they haven’t seen. We have a lot of young people playing. That’s going to happen. The thing is we never gave up.”
Oklahoma (18-5, 6-3 Big 12) came out in the first set and took it to the Longhorns (17-2, 10-0). Midway through the first period they trailed 10-9 as they played the visitors to a stalemate.
But the Texas front line began to assert itself as Chiaka Ogbogu, Molly McCage and All-American Haley Eckerman led the Longhorns on a 15-6 run to close out the set 25-15. Eckerman had six of the team’s 16 kills in the set.
“She has been getting better and better,” UT coach Jerritt Elliot said of Eckerman. “She’s an All-American and proved that. It was key for her to play the way she did.”
OU fell behind 8-2 to start the second set. It looked like the Longhorns were going to make quick work of the Sooners as they pounded spike after spike.
But Oklahoma clawed its way back to close the gap to 15-12 behind Sallie McLaurin and Keila Rodriguez.
However, Oklahoma hurt its chances to get the score closer with its own errors. That included serving into the net or out of bounds three times as they fell 25-16.
“Serving was very important,” Restrepo said. “We told them the team that serves and pass the best is going to win. And I think it showed (Texas) did a pretty good job.”
OU came out on fire in the third set. McLaurin, Madison Ward and Kierra Holst gave home team a 9-5 advantage, forcing Texas to call a time-out.
Oklahoma took a 25-24 lead and was one point from taking the set. But Holst served it into the net to tie the set up. Eckerman then came up with a miss hit to put Oklahoma back up by one. Rodriguez put the set away with a punishing kill to give OU a 27-25 win. It was the first set they have taken from the Longhorns in two matches this season.
“I think we had momentum and when we had it we were doing great,” Rodriguez said. “I think we were anxious in the first two sets. In third set, we got rid of that and started playing the game. The first two sets, that wasn’t our game.”
Oklahoma and Texas were tied 13-13 midway through the fourth before UT took three straight points forcing Restrepo to call a time-out. OU responded with a 4-1 run to tie the set at 17-17.
But the experience of the Longhorns prevailed as they outscored OU 8-4 down the stretch. Eckerman ended the match with her 19th kill of the night.
“It’s good for us to be in these situations,” Elliot said. “We need to be pushed and we need to be tested. Santiago does a nice job with his team.”
Rodriguez led the Sooners with 11 kills and 14 digs. Taylor Migliazzo added 13 digs and three assists while Julia Doyle had 33 assists.
Along with Eckerman’s 19 kills and 11 digs, Hannah Allison tallied 52 of her team’s 57 assists.
“We had a set against the no. 1 ranked team,” McLaurin said. “So we are a great team. That could have easily gone to five sets. We have a chance to upset some major teams.”
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