Chiaka Ogbogu

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

Almost a year ago, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, was the center of the volleyball world.

Two powerhouses, Texas and Stanford, clashed for all the marbles.

While Texas eventually fell at the hands of Stanford, one player wasn’t able to contribute to the effort: senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu.

“It was a hard experience just not being a part of everything we worked toward (last year),” Ogbogu said. “I’m just super excited that I get another chance.”

After sitting out last season due to academic ineligibility, Ogbogu hasn’t shown any signs of rust since her return to the team in 2017.

The 6-foot-2 middle blocker has recorded 250 kills over the course of the season along with a team-high 159 block assists. Apart from her impressive numbers, Ogbogu also became the all-time block-assists leader and is one block away from tying Texas’ all-time block leader. But by no means was Ogbogu’s path to the record book a short one; she modeled her play after the Longhorns before her, almost five years before setting foot on the 40 Acres.

“It’s insane to think about,” Ogbogu said. “I just think about all of the middle blockers I grew up watching when I was in middle school and high school.”

Her presence on the stat sheet as well as the court has helped a Longhorn team with a young core flourish and position itself for a run at the ever-so-elusive national championship.

Along with seniors Ebony Nwanebu and Cat McCoy, Ogbogu has continued to be one of Texas’ leaders in all respects.

With the postseason in full swing, the Longhorns adopted a game-at-a-time mentality so as to not look past any game or opponent. Ogbogu and the rest of the senior class have been an integral part of this adjustment, and they’re making sure younger players take notice.

“What comes with the responsibility of being a senior is that your experience is enough to help out the younger players,” Ogbogu said. “We believe in them, and if they follow our lead, they’re gonna be okay.”

This season has been a grueling one for Texas, who for stretches had two or more road games in one-week spans. This year’s schedule included games from Florida to California, standing out to even experienced players like Ogbogu.

This also had an impact on players’ academics as well. Players were forced to miss exams on campus because of the rigorous traveling schedule and will require academic staff to administer tests at Stanford this weekend.

This weekend’s action sees Texas traveling to yet another hostile environment. Having played in front of capacity crowds against then-No. 17 San Diego, then-No. 12 Florida and then-No. 9 Kansas this year, there’s more excitement than uncertainty heading into this trip to California — and that includes the Longhorns’ underclassmen.

“(It’s) one of the reasons I schedule tough,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “It gets our freshmen acclimated to different and tough environments.”

Ogbogu, who already has three years of road and tournament games under her belt so far, is one of the main reasons the Longhorns head into matchups such as this one with a sense of confidence. It’s more of a challenge than a chore.

“It’s just the excitement of the unknown,” Ogbogu said. “None of us have really played at Stanford. The bigger the crowd, the more exciting it is.”

In her last run for the title, Ogbogu knows each game could be her last, and her focus is similar to that of the team’s: not looking ahead. 

With her last few games as a Longhorn coming up, Ogbogu will get to lock in for one last run.

“(This year) was different,” Ogbogu said. “But ultimately, it was to set us up for this moment (to win).”

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Texas entered Friday’s match against Fairfield with every advantage imaginable. The Longhorns had the depth, the No. 6 seed in the tournament and 3,817 fans at Gregory Gym behind them.

But the Stags were anything but deer in the headlights, fighting tooth and nail with the Longhorns every step of the way.

Fairfield came out firing in the opening set, tying the score at nine and silencing the burnt-orange faithful. So Texas amped things up, feeding off the play of senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu.

The Big 12 Player of the Year continued her season-long dominance, recording five kills and leading the Longhorns to a 25-16 victory.

“In the NCAA tournament, there’s a lot of nerves,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “But I thought we were able to settle down, and we got some great production from our middles early on to give us some separation.”

With the momentum back on their side, the Longhorns hit their stride in the second set, dominating Fairfield to take a commanding 17-7 lead.

Fairfield had no answer for the Texas defense, especially on the front line. Five different Longhorns recorded at least one block in the set, stifling the Stags at every turn.

But the feisty road team led by head coach Todd Kress refused to quit, fending off three set points to bring the score to 24-18. Each time the crowd held its breath, ready to explode, and each time they exhaled in frustration.

Junior middle blocker Morgan Johnson finally put an end to the comeback bid, launching a missile through the heart of the Fairfield defense to secure the 25-18 win and take a two-set lead.

“We knew (Fairfield) would fight,” Elliott said. “They got after it, and I have a lot of respect for what Todd (Kress) has done with this program.”

Fairfield finally broke in the third set, as Texas went in for the kill. The Longhorns didn’t allow the Stags to get anything going, and Texas cruised to a 25-17 win to complete the sweep.

Sophomore outside hitter Micaya White finished the match with a team-high 12 kills (.281) in the victory. Ogbogu had an efficient outing, tallying 11 kills on a .917 hitting percentage and adding four blocks as well.

The Longhorns made the most of their chances throughout the night, recording only seven errors and posting a season-high hitting percentage of 66 percent.

“Our communication was just about taking care of what we could take care of,” Ogbogu said. “We focused on being calm on our side and just trying to scrape away points.”

The win sets up a second-round match against NC State at 7 p.m this Saturday at Gregory Gym. The Wolfpack are rolling after earning the program’s first tournament victory on Thursday with a five-set thriller over Oregon State.

But the match will mark Texas’ final home game of the year, and the Longhorns are determined to bid their fans at Gregory Gym farewell with one last win.

“It would mean a lot (to win),” Ogbogu said. “It’s sad to think that this is our last home match at Gregory, but we’re just excited to get out there.”

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

After earning a victory on senior day against Oklahoma on Wednesday, the Longhorns took to the road for their season finale on Saturday afternoon, facing off against No. 18 Baylor in Waco.

Texas stole the show on the Bears’ senior day festivities, ending the regular season in style with a four-set victory.

Baylor opened the floodgates early, starting off the first set with an 11-2 advantage. However, the Longhorns stayed the course and came back to take the set 27-25.

Two of Texas’ seniors, Chiaka Ogbogu and Ebony Nwanebu, played a big part in mounting the comeback. The duo combined for 26 kills over the course of the match.

“I think the majority of the time we were trying to play catch up,” senior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu said. “I’m really proud of how we came back and kept pushing.”

The second set saw Baylor go neck-and-neck with Texas through the majority of the set. With both teams deadlocked at 20, the Bears strung together a 5-1 run to close the set out.

The Longhorns once again played a close third set, playing to a tie game at 21. They followed that with a 4-2 run to close out the set, topped of by a pre-serve error that gave Texas the set.

The fourth set saw the scales tip heavily in favor of the Longhorns, as they opened the floodgates with a 8-0 run and never looked back to claim the match.

“We set the tone for how we wanted to finish it,” Nwanebu said. “I think we executed that very well.”

This game saw Texas notch four players with double-digit kills, emphasizing a strong team effort in defeating a top-25 team on the road. At the end of the afternoon, the Longhorns were outright Big-12 champs.

Apart from the numbers, it was the point-at-a-time mentality that powered Texas through to the finish line. With a stout senior leadership core, the younger players always have someone to turn to in the huddle after each point.

“I’m really proud of Chiaka (Ogbogu),” Nwanebu said. “She told us that we were going to win, and if she saw someone’s face drop, she made sure that it changed.”

With the regular season wrapped up, Texas will take a 18-game win streak into the postseason, being one of two teams in the country with a perfect conference record.

Texas’ postseason positioning is up to the NCAA selection committee, who will determine whether or not Texas and Gregory Gym will host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Despite only two losses on the season, there is still a question mark surrounding the Longhorns’ seeding among coaches and players alike.

“Hopefully we get to host, but you never know,” Nwanebu said. “We’re always prepared for anything.”

The Longhorns won’t have to play the waiting game for long. The NCAA Tournament selection show is slated to set up the bracket at 8 p.m. on Sunday before tournament action kicks off on Nov. 30.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns hoisted the Big 12 title trophy on Wednesday night the same way they earned it: together.

Texas was crowned the king of the conference in front of a sold-out crowd at Gregory Gym, sweeping the rivaled Sooners to claim sole possession of the Big 12 title.

In a match that was also senior night for Texas, the Longhorns’ four-year veterans lead the way with a noticeable exuberance.

Senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu proved to be the difference in the first set despite the Sooners claiming an early 7-5 lead. The Coppell native worked to right the ship, posting three key kills.

Ogbogu also contributed two blocks, including a big-time rejection to earn the final point and give Texas a commanding 25-13 victory.

The second set was controlled by senior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu. The Fairview native routinely gave Oklahoma a healthy dosage of laser shots down the middle of the defense, recording three kills and committing zero errors in the process.

The Sooners couldn’t match Texas’ firepower, surrendering a 25-15 victory to the Longhorns to give the burnt orange a commanding two-set lead.

The closeout set kicked off with a roar of applause from the Texas faithful as senior middle blocker Mirta Baselovic made her first in-game appearance of the season. It took just two plays for the senior to land a kill, sending the crowd into a frenzy while giving the Longhorns a 12-6 lead.

After the Sooners’ 10-4 run quieted the crowd, it was time for another senior to take the reigns. This time it was senior libero Cat McCoy, who kept her team composed while foiling the Oklahoma offense with six key digs down the stretch to prevent any further damage.

Texas capitalized on those extra opportunities, stringing together an 8-4 run to reach match point. Ogbogu finished it off, delivering a back-breaking kill to secure the win and the title.

Both Ogbogu and Nwanebu finished the outing with eight kills, and McCoy finished with a team-high 10 digs. The win also marks one of Texas’ more complete games, recording a season-best hitting percentage of .526 for the match.

“All year we’ve been saying don’t let up,” Nwanebu said. “I think tonight was that night that we didn’t. If you want to win a championship, you have to peak later (in the season), and I think tonight showed that we’re getting to that point.”

After the trophy was hoisted and the team donned its Big 12 championship t-shirts, the night ended with a short ceremony for Texas’ seniors. The crowd gave each player a round of applause as they were given a bouquet of flowers and their framed jerseys in what might prove to be their last time on the hardwood of Gregory Gym.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Ogbogu said. “Obviously we still have more games to be played. That’s what’s making me not so emotional, but I know it’s going to hit me eventually.”

Texas still has work to do as it prepares for a road match against No. 18 Baylor on Saturday to close out the season. The Bears enter the match on a seven-game win streak highlighted by a 3-0 sweep over No. 14 Kansas on Nov. 11.

A win would solidify Texas’ bid to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament beginning No. 30, ensuring an additional set of matches at home.

“Baylor is scary,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Every coach dreams of being in the position to be able to host at the end of the season, and that’s where we are right now. We just have to go out and execute and be ready.”

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

It was the fifth exchange in the rally. The ball flew in between the two banners above Gregory Gym, and then promptly saved at the scorers’ table. 

An already-noisy crowd then almost blew the roof off of Gregory Gym, following a kill by senior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu.

It was that kind of night for the No. 3 Longhorns, who swept West Virginia to extend their season-high win streak to 11 games.

“We did well responding and just fighting,” senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu said. “(Despite the fact that) all of our touches weren’t the cleanest.”

Texas started the first set off on a quick 4-0 run and never looked back. A 25-19 win in the first frame was highlighted by four kills from sophomore outside hitter Micaya White.

The second set was more contested, as each team had at least two set points. But after a couple of exchanges across the net, a kill by freshman outside hitter Lexi Sun sealed the 28-26 win for the Longhorns.

“Our talk has just been staying calm in those pressure situations,” Ogbogu said. “Remembering our routines and just going back to the basics has helped us not be frantic.”

The Longhorns cruised through the final set 25-17 to complete the night’s sweep.

Ogbogu led the way for Texas, adding 11 kills and seven blocks. This marks Ogbogu’s third straight game with over 10 kills and five blocks. Her strong effort was complemented by White, who recorded nine kills and 11 digs on the night. 

“Just getting more practice and getting more comfortable (is key),” Ogbogu said. “It’s helped us get more comfortable with things we’re struggling with.”

One of the Longhorns’ defensive pillars, senior libero Cat McCoy, closed in on a milestone achievement on Saturday night, tying the school’s all-time record for digs. McCoy recorded 12 digs on the night and proved instrumental in stopping the Mountaineers’ consistent attack.

Texas’ all-around effort was evident not only on the stat sheet, but also on the floor. The Longhorns spent their evening diving on the hardwood, into the stands and on the scorers’ table saving balls as the match went on, highlighting the intensity that the Longhorns play with.

That intensity was matched by Texas’ fans. The Mountaineers accrued nine service errors as a consistently loud crowd contributed to Texas’ home-court advantage.

“It’s awesome playing at home in front of this crowd,” Ogbogu said. “It was just cool to see our fans come out and support us.”

As the second half of Big 12 play commences, the Longhorns will spend the majority of their time in the friendly confines of Gregory Gym, where they will play four of their next six games.

Texas travels to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on Kansas State on Wednesday. First serve is set for 8 p.m.

Numbers can reveal a lot about what worked during a season and what didn’t for teams. Here are five numbers from Texas’ volleyball campaign, which ended in the Final Four against Wisconsin on Thursday, which really stand out.
 
7: The number of reception errors Texas had in the Final Four against Wisconsin. The Longhorns had been good all season in that area, only twice did they commit seven reception errors, but both times were costly – both losses. As head coach Jerritt Elliott said after the defeat, “It’s a serve and receive game.”
 

335: The number of blocks on the year for Texas. This number puts them at sixth in the nation, with the only other major conference team ranking ahead of them being Penn State. The Longhorns’ blocking was a big reason for the team’s successful season. Texas’ three leading blockers—Molly McCage, Khat Bell and Chiaka Ogbogu—all return.
 

4-2:  Texas’ record on neutral courts this season. At home: 13-0. On the road: 10-1. On neutral courts, the Longhorns struggled to find a comfort zone. Even Haley Eckerman noted that playing in Key Arena in the Final Four threw them off.
 

.252: Texas’ hitting percentage on the year against non-conference foes. In conference they hit .325, but struggled against the better blocks outside the Big 12. Texas’ weak conference schedule helped inflate the Longhorns’ hitting numbers.

.122: Big 12 Freshman of the Year Chiaka Ogbogu’s hitting percentage in the NCAA tournament, if you take out her dominating performance against American in the Sweet 16. Throughout the Big 12 regular season, she was just that – dominant. Ogbogu ranked second in the Big 12 in conference play, hitting .386. Outside of the American game, though, she disappeared. Texas needs her to be a major factor next season.

 

Looking to keep their perfect conference record alive, the top-ranked Longhorns travel to Ames, Iowa, to take on No. 25 Iowa State (18-7, 11-3 Big 12) Wednesday at 6:30.

Last year, Texas’ visit to Iowa ended in a 2-3 loss, their only defeat of the conference season. But, looking to redeem the loss from last year, Texas (21-2, 14-0 Big 12) is playing some of its best volleyball of the season.

Junior All-American outside Haley Eckerman was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week and freshman opposite hitter Chiaka Ogbogu was named Rookie of the Week as the Longhorns ran their win streak to 17.

Eckerman recorded a league high 6.17 kills per set while hitting .484, second in the league. Her biggest game was last Wednesday against West Virginia, where she matched her career-high with 27 kills, the most for any Big 12 player this year.

Ogbogu kept up her league-high .417 hitting percentage last week, swinging .450. She also performed well at the net with 12 blocks, leading all Big 12 players in blocks per set.  

The Longhorns have their final two games this week as they look to finish perfect in the Big 12, a feat only ever accomplished by Nebraska.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Freshman Chiaka Ogbogu is a middle blocker. She has played the position her whole life and was recruited to man the middle at Texas.

“Chiaka will continue the great tradition of middle blockers we have had in this program,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said after Ogbogu committed to his program. “She is a smooth athlete that has the potential to develop into one of the premier players in the nation.”

But when she arrived, two huge road blocks stood in her way: sophomore Molly McCage and junior Khat Bell.

With the two of them at middle, Texas won a national championship. And they didn’t get worse in the offseason — the pair only improved. 

“It was intimidating coming in, because they just won it all and only graduated one player,” Ogbogu said. “It was competitive to fight for that one open spot, but that competitiveness is one of the reasons I came here.”

Instead of having the 6-foot-2-inch freshman ride the bench her freshman, and maybe even sophomore year, Elliott decided to move Ogbogu to opposite, a position she is unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.

“I played middle my whole life,” Ogbogu said. “The only time I ever played a different position was in practice.”

Ogbogu had not played a position other than middle blocker in a game since her sophomore year of high school.

And why would she have to play any other position? She was the 2012 Gatorade Texas Volleyball Player of the Year at middle blocker as a high school senior. 

But the freshman is starting to adjust to the different angles and skills needed at her new spot on the court. 

“The blocking is different,” Ogbogu said. “I have to be patient, wait more and get the high balls.”

The slow transition from the middle to opposite on defense has not slowed her potent offensive game. 

She leads No. 3 Texas (12-2, 5-0 Big 12) in hitting percentage, swinging at a ridiculous rate of .442 — double the rate of All-American Haley Eckerman. Ogbogu’s .442 not only leads the team but ranks her 12th in the nation.

“I think a lot of teams are caught off guard when I get the set,” Ogbogu said. “Getting the extra reps has helped with the switch and boosts my confidence also.”

Bell, who experienced a similar shift from the outside to middle blocker her freshman year, took Ogbogu under her wing, helping to ease her transition. 

“She went through the same switch as me,” Ogbogu said. “In my first game at Illinois she boosted me up and told me she knew I was ready.”

When Iowa State (10-5, 4-1 Big 12) comes to Austin on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., don’t look for Ogbogu in the middle.

“I had been playing middle my whole life — one position the whole time,” Ogbogu said. “Now I think I got the hang of it.”

 

Freshman Chiaka Ogbogu is a middle blocker. She has played the position her whole life and was recruited to man the middle at Texas.

“Chiaka will continue the great tradition of middle blockers we have had in this program,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said after Ogbogu committed to his program. “She is a smooth athlete that has the potential to develop into one of the premier players in the nation.”

But when she arrived, two huge road blocks stood in her way: sophomore Molly McCage and junior Khat Bell.

With the two of them at middle, Texas won a national championship. And they didn’t get worse in the offseason — the pair only improved. 

“It was intimidating coming in, because they just won it all and only graduated one player,” Ogbogu said. “It was competitive to fight for that one open spot, but that competitiveness is one of the reasons I came here.”

So instead of having the 6-foot-2-inch freshman ride the bench her freshman, and maybe even sophomore year, Elliott decided to move Ogbogu to opposite, a position she is unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.

“I played middle my whole life,” Ogbogu said. “The only time I ever played a different position was in practice.”

In fact, Ogbogu had not played a position other than middle blocker in a game since her sophomore year of high school.

And why would she have to play any other position? She was the 2012 Gatorade Texas Volleyball Player of the Year at middle blocker as a high school senior. 

But the freshman is starting to adjust to the different angles and skills needed at her new spot on the court. 

“The blocking is different,” Ogbogu said. “I have to be patient, wait more and get the high balls.”

But the slow transition from the middle to opposite on defense has not slowed her potent offensive game. 

She leads No. 3 Texas (12-2, 5-0 Big 12) in hitting percentage, swinging at a ridiculous rate of .442 — double the rate of All-American Haley Eckerman. Ogbogu’s .442 hitting percentage not only leads the team, but ranks her 12th in the nation.

“I think a lot of teams are caught off guard when I get the set,” Ogbogu said. “Getting the extra reps has helped with the switch and boosts my confidence also.”

Bell, who experienced a similar shift from the outside to middle blocker her freshman year, has taken Ogbogu under her wing, helping to ease her transition. 

“She went through the same switch as me,” Ogbogu said. “In my first game at Illinois she boosted me up and told me she knew I was ready.”

When Iowa State (10-5, 4-1 Big 12) comes to Austin on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., don’t expect to see Ogbogu in the middle, as she kind of likes being on the right. 

“I had been playing middle my whole life — one position the whole time,” Ogbogu said. “Now I think I got the hang of it.”

Red Raiders beware, the Longhorns are coming for lucky number seven.

No. 4 Texas (10-2, 3-0 Big 12) will host Texas Tech on Wednesday night, riding a six-game winning streak, including three-straight wins in conference play. After outhitting non-conference opponent LSU .347-.127 this past weekend, the Longhorns’ offense has found its stride.

During its current win streak, Texas has 323 total kills compared to just 269 for its opponents. The Longhorns increased their hitting percentage from .250 to .260.

Head coach Jerritt Elliott has preached the importance of attack efficiency all season, stressing the need for Texas to improve its hitting percentage every time out. Texas has not been outhit since dropping a game to Arizona State on Sept. 13, which bodes well moving forward.

Freshman Chiaka Ogbogu has come into her own during the Longhorns’ winning streak, claiming her second-straight Big 12 Rookie of the Week honor last week with a .514 hitting percentage that was the highest of any player in the conference.

Although Ogbogu has only appeared in 23 of the Longhorns’ 47 sets this season, her .433 hitting percentage leads the team and her 52 kills are fifth-best.

“I feel like I have to come in and be really confident,” Ogbogu said. “If I keep swinging, and they [teammates] keep swinging, then we’ll get in our rhythm [and] get back to our own personal game.”

All-American outside hitters Haley Eckerman and Bailey Webster have more than delivered on their expectations heading into the season, compiling a team-leading 164 and 149 kills, respectively. Eckerman’s 3.49 kills per set is, by far, the best on the team.

The Texas offense appears to be clicking on all cylinders after sweeping LSU. But Texas Tech can’t seem to find its way.

The Red Raiders (7-11, 0-3 Big 12) will enter Gregory Gym Wednesday night carrying a .181 hitting percentage. Their leading hitter has only 22 more kills than Texas’ leading player while playing six more matches.

The numbers seem to indicate Texas has a solid chance to rack up its seventh consecutive victory against Texas Tech, though, the team has found it needs to be resilient in battling adversity, even against lower-ranked opponents.

Despite dropping the third set to a weaker Baylor team last week, the Longhorns dug deep to find ways to keep up the attack. That set was the only one Texas has lost in its last
four matches.

“The third set was probably one of our worst all season,” Elliott said. “I thought they rose to the challenge and they competed, and that’s part of the game. It’s unfortunate, but you have to be perfect on both sides of the ball.”

All things considered, the Texas offense has proved its potency and will need to continue to perform well for the Longhorns to further their win streak.

“We just need to stay consistent,” Elliott said. “But I think we’re doing things better for longer stretches of time than we’ve done earlier in the season.”