The Hex flame will be rekindled on Wednesday as the No. 3 Longhorns and No. 16 Aggies face off for the first time in three years.
The rivalry has a 95-game history, with the Longhorns winning 72 of them. Despite Texas’ dominance in the past, Texas A&M will pose some challenges. The Aggies boast the 2015 SEC Player of the Year in senior setter Stephanie Aiple. She led the Aggies to their first-ever conference title last season, averaging 13.22 assists and 14.09 kills per set.
“[They have] a good team this year [with] lots of older experience,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “They form a real good challenge for us because their fast and quality setting and the way they tip and swing will cause us some confusion for a while.”
The Longhorns will counter with their depth at the outside hitter position.
Last weekend, freshman Micaya White earned her second Big 12 Freshman of the Week title after leading the team with 38 kills at a hitting percentage of .329 at the Rams Classic. Junior Ebony Nwanebu has shown flashes of her potential this season, leading the team in kills against No. 1 Nebraska, Oregon, and Wichita State.
“They have some fantastic outside hitters that are feisty, young and big,” Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli said.
Corbelli said Texas A&M brings a lot of returning talent, but struggles when opposing teams create a large point-gap. The Longhorns will challenge them to play with consistency.
Texas hopes to build a stronger defense to create more offensive opportunities in the middle of the court. In last week’s matchups against Wichita State and Colorado State, junior libero Cat McCoy posted double-digit digs, including a season-high of 19. Freshman Orie Agbaji and sophomore Morgan Johnson totaled a combined 20 kills last weekend and are looking to build on their performances.
“Our defense is young right now, but they’re getting better every day.” McCoy said. “We’re working on getting our passing up to par to get our middles more involved.”
Since losing to Nebraska on opening weekend, the Longhorns have racked up six straight wins preparing for Wednesday’s marquee matchup. The contest will mark the first chance to experience the rivalry for many of Texas’ younger players.
“I grew up 30 minutes away from UT, so I’ve been a UT fan my whole life,” said freshman defensive specialist Autumn Rounsaville. “Just to be able to get in this game and play in this atmosphere means the world.”
Play begins at 7 p.m. at Gregory Gym. And according to Corbelli, the rivalry atmosphere will be one of a kind.
“Most of these kids haven’t played at Gregory Gym,” Corbelli said. “I don’t think they really realize how much fun it’s going to be.”