After beginning the season on the road, Texas headed home for the first time this season, winning two contests on Thursday before facing No. 1 Minnesota on Friday night. But Friday’s marquee matchup didn’t go the way the Longhorn faithful envisioned it.
A raucous crowd of 4,353 at Gregory Gym welcomed the No. 5 Longhorns back to Austin, but sadly saw them walk off the court with a 3-1 loss to the Golden Gophers.
“Minnesota was much better than us systematically,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “They made plays when they had to, and we got beat up in a lot of different areas.”
There wasn’t much separating the two teams in the first set. The Longhorns and Gophers were neck and neck until the final five points, where Minnesota went on a 6-2 run to finish it off, giving the Golden Gophers a 1-0 lead.
Minnesota’s size at the net proved to be a big problem for the Longhorns all game, as the Gophers recorded 12 blocks to the Longhorns 9. Serving errors and inaccurate sets, however, were what really did the Longhorns in.
“We hit a lot of balls straight ahead and not with a whole lot of purpose,” Elliott said. “We weren’t able to put a lot of pressure on them for a period of time, and then we kind of just imploded with some systematic things.”
The second set saw Minnesota jump out to an early lead, but Texas clawed back to reclaim a 12-11 lead. With the two teams duking it out until the end of the set, three inspired Texas rallies — highlighted by freshman Lexi Sun’s set-closing point — tied the match at one game apiece.
“There at the end (of the second set), just being calm just shows a sign of maturity,” senior Cat McCoy said. “It was a good way to fight back.”
But the Longhorns’ momentum fizzled out in the third set as errors continued to pile up. Numerous service errors helped the Gophers create early separation, ultimately resulting in Minnesota taking the crucial third set after a close ending.
“We were good for stretches, but we were also poor for stretches,” Elliott said. “And you can’t do that against the number one team in the country.”
The fourth set proved to be more of the same, as Minnesota quickly grabbed the lead and never looked back, winning 3-1.
Despite the loss, Texas’ dynamic freshman duo in Lexi Sun and Ashley Shook turned in double-double efforts. Sun contributed 19 kills and 13 digs while Shook added 43 assists and 17 digs, keeping up their consistently high level of play through and through.
“These experiences are great, especially this early (in the season),” McCoy said. “It shows a lot about who they are, and they’re just going to keep maturing and improving.”
The Longhorns will have a couple of days rest before they renew the Lone Star Showdown on the hardwood against Texas A&M on Sept. 13. They’ll then have a date with UTSA the following Tuesday.