Micaya White

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

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.

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

In a family that plays above the net, sophomore Micaya White found a different approach.

White grew up in a basketball household. Her father, Randy, averaged 21.2 points and 10.5 rebounds during his senior year at Louisiana Tech, earning the nickname “The Mailman II” due to his similar playing style to legendary alumnus Karl “The Mailman” Malone. The 6-foot-8 power forward was then selected with the eighth overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1989 NBA Draft, where he enjoyed a five-year career with the team.

Her older brother, RJ, is a recent graduate of University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he averaged 12.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in his final season.

Micaya White seemed destined to pursue the family business, but the Frisco native quickly learned that basketball wasn’t for her.

“I was forced to play basketball,” White said. “It didn’t turn out very well. I hated being touched and just running in general, which is not my thing.”

So White called it quits, taking up volleyball during her sophomore year of high school instead. It’s a decision that was met with some adversity at first.

“My mom was not supportive,” White said. “It’s just because she loves basketball. Everyone thinks that basketball runs in the family, and I kind of killed that.”

But White flourished in her new domain, graduating from Centennial High School just two years later as the No. 4 recruit in the nation and earning her family’s full support in the process.

Despite having an abundance of offers, White fell in love with Texas during the recruiting process, opting to join the program in 2015 and become a Longhorn.

“I just loved the culture,” White said. “(The girls) just reminded me of sisters I wish I had, and it was just an awesome experience all around.”

White’s collegiate career quickly got put on hold, though, as the promising young talent suffered a tibial stress fracture in her left leg before the 2015 season. She was forced to redshirt.

But White rebounded, returning the following year and recording 479 kills as the team’s premier outside hitter. Those efforts were recognized on Nov. 28, 2016, when White was named the Big 12 freshman of the year. That honor symbolized how far she had come.

“It meant so much to come back from being completely broken,” White said. “(The injury) made me really appreciate every day going into the gym and winning that award meant those eight months of torture just paid off.”

Now in the midst of her sophomore year, White is hitting her stride. The 6-foot-1 outside hitter has recorded a team-high four double-doubles this season and is a key part of a Texas squad that is poised for another run at the NCAA title.

But, most importantly, she has found where she belongs.

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

Sophomore Micaya White boarded the team plane in Lawrence, Kansas, on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m., eager to get back home.

White was spent. Her team had just earned one of its toughest victories of the season, defeating No. 9 Kansas on the road, 3-2. The Longhorns entered the match on a streak of three-straight 3-0 sweeps, each reaching a swift conclusion in no less than an hour and a half.

But this one was different. Texas found itself on the ropes after dropping two of the first three sets against the Jayhawks. The Longhorns didn’t break, though, winning the fourth set in a commanding fashion, 25-10, before closing things out in a tight fifth set, 18-16. The match lasted almost two and a half hours.

“We weren’t perfect,” White said. “But we didn’t let the crowd or what (Kansas) did affect how we played. It helped out in the long run.”

Now, after back-to-back road matches, it’s time to return to Austin. But Texas had much more than just a late-night flight ahead of it. The Longhorns knew they’d have to recoup quickly and prepare for a date with No. 23 Iowa State on Saturday.

“What fans don’t understand is that the daily schedule of a student athlete is very tough,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We’ll shorten up practice dramatically and get them what they need to be ready for Saturday, not only physically but mentally.”

It was 2:20 in the morning when White got back to her apartment, the statement win still fresh on her mind. She had her first class in just seven hours, but sleep was top priority at the moment. She’d need it for the coming days.

Taking down the Cyclones is always a tall task. The teams split their two-game series last season, the most recent going to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa.

Now it’s Texas’ turn to play host, and the Longhorns have no plans to let the Cyclones leave the 40 Acres with a win.

“(Iowa State) gets better and better every year, so I’m excited to play them,” White said. “We just need to come out strong, follow the game plan and bring home the dub.”