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Thriller Sends Longhorns to Regional Finals
December 09, 2016

No. 4 seed Texas Volleyball (25-4) punched its ticket to the Elite Eight in thrilling fashion, knocking off No. 13 seed BYU (29-4), 3-2 (25-23, 25-14, 24-26, 22-25, 16-14), inside Gregory Gym on Friday afternoon.

This marks the 13th consecutive year and the 22nd overall regional finals match the Big 12 has earned an appearance in. The conference improves to a 22-6 record in regional semifinals matchups.

With the win, Texas advances its 11th straight and 22nd all-time regional final match. The Longhorns improve to 66-9 (.880) in tournament matches hosted in Austin and a 33-2 (.943) mark under head coach Jerritt Elliott.

Four Longhorns registered double-digit kills on the match. Freshman Micaya White led all players with 24 kills, marking the seventh time she has had 20 or more kills on the season, coupled with a career-high 20 digs. Junior Ebony Nwanebu posted 19 kills while senior Paulina Prieto-Cerame followed suit with 16 kills. Sophomore Morgan Johson rounded out the double-digits for Texas with 11 kills, her new career-high.

Senior Chloe Collins tossed up a career-high 70 assists, moving her into fifth place all-time for assists at Texas with 3,570. Junior Cat McCoy posted a team-high 23 digs, and junior sophomore Yaazie Bedart-Ghani led the Longhorns with eight blocks.

As a team, Texas swung at a .364 hitting percentage (66-102) while holding BYU to .242 percent (66-112). The Horns outblocked the Cougars, 14-10.

The opening set was everything a Sweet Sixteen matchup should be, featuring three lead changes and 14 ties. The Longhorns found their strength behind White, who registered seven kills in the opening stanza, including a 3-0 run of her own to eliminate a 20-17 deficit. After a White ace evened things once again at 23, Prieto-Cerame drilled two to the wood to hand Texas set one, 25-23.

The Horns never trailed BYU in the second set and hit at a match-high .448 hitting percentage while holding the Cougars to .125 percent. After opening on a long rally that ended on a Nwanebu tip, Texas pressed ahead to as many as eight (16-8) headed into a BYU timeout. From there, the Longhorns continued to forge onward to capture set two, 25-14.

After three ties, BYU picked up its first lead since the opener and extended it to as many as three (13-10) in the heart of the third. A 4-0 stretch helped Texas regain control of the set, 21-18, and a Johnson kill made it match point with the Longhorns holding the 24-22 advantage. The Cougars proved tough, battling off two elimination points and closing on a 4-0 run to take set three, 26-24.

An 8-8 tie didn't dampen the BYU momentum, and the Cougars steered the fourth from that point on. After utilizing a 6-2 push to take the 20-14 lead, its largest of the match, BYU kept the striking distance to at least three for the remainder of the stanza and won the fourth set, 25-22.

The Cougars claimed the first five points of the final set with the help of two service aces and led by as many as six (11-5) in the closer, but the Texas front row had other plans. A 7-1 Longhorns attack tied things at 12, but two straight BYU kills made it match point. Texas remained calm, knocking down kills from Nwanebu and White to make it 14-14 and force extra points. Another Nwanebu kill made it match point once again, this time in favor of Texas, and a BYU attack error sealed the deal as Texas closed the fifth set, 16-14, and the match, 3-2.

Texas will face the winner of the matchup between Creighton and No. 12 seed Michigan in the regional final on Saturday, Dec. 10 inside Gregory Gym. The first serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT, and the game will be carried live on ESPNU.

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