NORMAN, Oklahoma — Season opener?
Texas looked ready for the postseason.
“They seem like a very well-oiled machine and when they’re in system and in rhythm, they know who they want to be and who they are and they know who are going to be their point scorers,” Oklahoma coach Lindsey Grey-Walton said.
“They still have the identity about them that Texas always has. And you feel them. You feel their presence as blockers, you can feel them from the service line … but that was pretty impressive.”
The end result in the Big 12 fall opener for both teams was a 25-18, 15-16, 25-21 Texas victory in the McCasland Field House. Texas hit .382; OU .149, and for much of the match was well below that. Texas had just a 7-5 advantage in blocks, but the big Longhorns forced a lot of adjustments and altered attempts.
Texas is tall, strong and powerful and it showed all match long with a team that has a different look this season. Logan Eggleston led with 17 kills as she hit .406 and added two of her team’s four aces, a block, and two digs. Skylar Fields, moving from the right side to the left this season, had 13 kills, hit .478, and had a block and a dig. And Molly Phillips, moving from middle to the right side, had eight kills in her first nine swings with no errors, finishing with nine kills, one error and a .667 hitting percentage. She added an assist and five blocks.
“I think we did a good job coming out there and playing as a team, especially for the first game and having some new pieces on our team,” Fields said. “I think we did a good job.”
Brionne Butler owned the middle, finishing with five kills while hitting .333 to go with six blocks and two digs. The other middle, Asjia O’Neal, had four kills, an ace, a block and two digs.
The Texas defense had a different but equally effective look. Last year’s libero, Sydney Peterson, has moved into a server/DS role. The libero is Illinois graduate transfer Morgan O’Brien, and she led with 14 digs and had three assists.
”I was pleased,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I expected it not be completely smooth, but it was our first competition and seeing a different style of game with no crowd. I thought we did a nice job of staying the course.
”For the first two games our defense was pretty strong. We missed way too many serves, and part of being a great team is serving tough and we’ve got to get to that point.”
Texas had four service aces but 13 errors, four by DS Nalani Iosia. Eggleston had three, but nonetheless the Longhorns continually kept Oklahoma out of system.
The same teams play again at 6 p.m. Friday and it, too, is on ESPNU with Chad McKee and former OU assistant Kelly Files on the call. Like Thursday, the crowd will be small, limited to invited family and guests from both teams, and four OU cheerleaders.
The faithful will be hoping for more than 24 kills by OU. French freshman outside Guewe Diouf recovered from a rocky start to lead with 13 kills. She had three blocks, one solo, and two digs. Her next closest offensive teammate was Sarah Sanders, who had four kills.
Oklahoma was without injured Paige Anderson. The senior middle, third on the team last year in both kills and blocks, watched with her right arm in a sling and may be back in the spring, Gray-Walton said. Also, last year’s all-Big 12 setter, senior Kylee McLaughlin, is not with the team. Transfer setter Grace Talpash had some tough, eye-opening moments.
’We’re young,” Grey-Walton said. “We’ve got to figure out what our identity is going to be from an attack standpoint. Who’s going to score the points for us in the front row? We’ve got to find some middle attack just to be able to keep the blockers honest.”
”We have a lot to work on,” said OU senior libero Keyton Kinley, who led the Sooners with nine digs. “But it’s the first time playing this season and a lot of people don’t get to do that. So overall we’re grateful for that. And at least we know we can play them tomorrow.”
We’ll have a complete NCAA roundup on Friday morning with recaps of the Texas Tech Big 12 sweep of West Virginia, and the victories by Miami and North Carolina in the ACC, plus a look at the Friday schedule that includes a total of 16 matches.