Junior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu seems to take the term “kill” quite literally. Ogbogu doesn’t simply attempt to gain another point for No. 5 Texas as she spikes the ball across the net. She aims to decimate her opponents.
“As an upperclassman, I do everything to try and get our team going,” Ogbogu said. “Any way I can get the team excited and pumped up helps win us matches.”
Most of Ogbogu’s kills follow the same pattern. She extends her arm above her 6-foot-2-inch frame and descends on the ball with enough force to register on the Richter scale. From there, the play is pretty simple. The ball lands on the hardwood court, the crowd erupts, and the announcer treats Longhorns fans to another round of “Point, Texas.”
Raised in Coppell, Texas, Ogbogu began to shine in high school. She racked up numerous accolades highlighted by recognition as the 2012 Gatorade Texas Volleyball Player of the Year. Ogbogu joined Texas as one of the most highly touted recruits in the nation, but she arrived in Austin far from a finished project.
“I think starting off, you don’t really know what to expect,” Ogbogu said. “But over the years, I’ve learned that this game is all about patience, and excelling in that part of the game has really helped me.”
Ogbogu’s role on Texas’ squad expands as she develops as a player. Once viewed as a specialty offensive weapon, Ogbogu has evolved into the bellwether of the Texas offense. It’s Ogbogu who gets the call when key points arise for Texas.
“The bigger the game, the better she plays,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “It’s what makes her special and one of the premier middle blockers in the country.”
Ogbogu’s importance to the Texas attack was best demonstrated in last year’s national semifinal matchup against BYU. She shined in a disappointing 3-1 loss, amassing a team-high 14 kills, while registering a kill percentage of .500.
Ogbogu’s effectiveness goes past the box score. An Ogbogu kill can turn a match around, vastly shifting momentum in the Longhorns’ favor. Her kills aren’t accompanied by a boastful scream or swaggering celebration, but they affect each opponent just the same.
“When [Ogbogu] gets a kill, everyone around her feeds off her energy,” senior middle blocker Molly McCage said. “She’s got so much fire in her eyes. It’s such a great feeling.”
Ogbogu’s team expects her to continue leading the way for the Longhorns offense on their quest for a fifth consecutive Big 12 Championship and a fourth consecutive Final Four appearance. Ogbogu will face pressure to continue producing a stream of thunderous kills, but she said she welcomes the challenge.
“We have very high expectations,” Ogbogu said. “There’s some pressure, but that’s there every year in this program. I’m going to keep trying to play at a high level and keep trying to lead this team to a championship.”
Ogbogu and the Longhorns play Wednesday in Lawrence, Kansas, against the No. 10 Jayhawks.