No. 2 Texas Volleyball (27-2) advanced to a 12th-straight Regional Final after defeating No. 13 Utah (24-10), 3-2 (25-19, 16-25, 24-26, 25-21, 16-14) at Maples Pavilion on Friday evening.
Senior Chiaka Ogbogu led the Longhorns with a career-high 16 kills on 30 swings (.433) and four blocks. Ogbogu’s four blocks gave her 534 for her career to break Texas’ all-time record, set by Errica Hibben in 1992.
Junior Yaazie Bedart-Ghani finished with 12 kills on 26 attempts and no errors for a team-leading .462 hitting percentage.
Sophomore Micaya White recorded her tenth double-double of the season with 13 kills and a career-high 20 digs, while senior Ebony Nwanebu added nine kills and four blocks.
Senior Cat McCoy led the Longhorns with 22 digs, while freshman Ashley Shook recorded eight digs and 50 assists for her third match this season with 50+ assists.
UT opened the first stanza 4-0, hitting .714 in a strong start to quickly reach 10 points, 10-6. But Texas marshalled the Utah offense as the set continued, limiting the Utes to seven points before reaching 20, 20-13. Ogbogu’s sixth kill then secured the set for Texas at 25-19.
Texas initially continued to frustrate the Utes offensively starting the second set, jumping ahead, 6-3. But Utah rallied to tie at eight apiece and force a Texas timeout on a 4-0 scoring run for an 11-8 lead. The Longhorns then trailed by as many as seven and were unable to prevent Utah from extending to tie up the match score, 1-1, with a 25-16 set finish.
The play had proved to be competitive by the intermission, with Texas’ .222 hitting percentage narrowly ahead of Utah’s .200, with the Utes leading in blocks, 2.0 to 3.0. The play after the break followed suit, with Utah edging ahead after a 15th set score tie at 23-23. An Nwanebu kill saved set point at 24-23, but Utah closed with a 2-0 run to earn a 2-1 advantage for the match.
Texas held the edge starting off and continuing into a vital fourth set. After opening 7-2, the Longhorns defended a five-point advantage under siege from Utah. Ogbogu’s 15th kill pushed Texas to 20, 20-14, and the Longhorns held on to force a fifth frame with a 25-21 set finish.
The fifth set tiebreaker began with a stuffed block from White and Ogbogu and the Longhorns gathered momentum with imposing defense at the net. Another Ogbogu block gave Texas a three-point lead at 4-1, but Utah rallied to keep pace heading through the set.
At 10-10, Utah tied up the set and did so twice more before Texas was able to push to match point at 14-13. The Utes saved the first match point before tying at 14 apiece, but Bedart-Ghani continued her surge off of the Texas bench and hit successive kills to secure the match at 16-14 and a 3-2 final set score.
Next up, Texas faces the victor of No. 4 Stanford and Wisconsin in the Regional Final on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 9 p.m. CT. The game will be televised live on ESPNU