COLUMBUS, Ohio — The No. 4 Longhorns had lost six straight sets to No. 1 Nebraska going back to last December. The Cornhuskers swept Texas in last year’s National Championship game and on opening weekend this season.
But on Thursday night, the burnt orange flipped the script. The Longhorns topped Nebraska in straight sets, clinching a berth in Saturday’s title game.
“It’s a huge rivalry,” junior libero Cat McCoy said. “Everyone wants to see Nebraska play Texas.”
The Texas-Nebraska saga changed early on in the match. After five ties early in the first set, a 3-point run of kills by freshman outside hitter Micaya White and a Cornhuskers attack error would secure a 4-point lead for Texas. Sophomore middle blocker Morgan Johnson and sophomore outside hitter Yaazie Bedart-Ghani aided in four total blocks in the game, throwing off Nebraska’s offense.
“Last year we had Amy Neal who was spectacular for us,” Elliott said. “But she was undersized and we replaced her with Micaya and started seeing what we could do with a physical block.”
Nebraska never rallied back from a 4-point deficit. Texas extended the lead with kills from Prieto Cerame and Bedart-Ghani to take the opening set 25-18.
“People have been questioning our serve receive maybe for ten years since I’ve been here,” Elliott said. “I’m just so proud of what our passes did tonight, be able to step up and play the game that they did tonight.”
Nebraska took an early 2–0 lead in the second set behind a raucous Cornhuskers contingent. The team broke three consecutive ties at 3–3, 4–4 and 8–8 before the Longhorns finally took a lead. The Cornhuskers stuck around in what was the match’s closest set before a kill from Prieto Cerame sealed a 25-23 Texas win.
Texas started the third set with a 4-point run to take a 6–2 lead, prompting a Nebraska timeout. The Longhorns’ excitement was on full display, as their play electrified the burnt orange crowd.
“I think they just took control of the match from the start,” senior Nebraska setter Kelly Hunter said. “And it was pretty hard for us to get it back. I think every time we did make a run for it they answered right back and they were very low error.”
Nwanebu powered the Longhorns through the rest of the set and ended the match with15 kills on a .378 efficiency. Nebraska closed the gap to 19-18, but Texas pulled away for the match-sealing 25-21 victory.
“I don’t think anybody expected it,” Elliott said. “Sometimes when the road isn’t as smooth, you gain a little bit of character, and it allows you to become a little bit more hungry.”
The burnt orange will take on No. 6 Stanford 8 p.m. on Saturday at Nationwide Arena. A win would mark Texas’ second national title in the last five years.
“I really like the fight in this team,” McCoy said. “We’re never going to back down.”