OKLAHOMA CITY Jerritt Elliott said it so matter-of-factly.
This is a cruel profession, the veteran Texas coach offered.
It was on Thursday night, when his Longhorns once again came up short in the national semifinals.
But for their agony on one side came the exuberance of upstart BYU, a surprise participant not only in the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship, but now a surprise participant in the national-title match.
BYU raced out to a two-sets-to-none lead and looked dominant, then appeared on the ropes in the third set as Texas finished on a 12-2 run, but hung tough in the fourth to come away with a 25-23, 25-16, 17-25, 26-24 victory.
And what a finish to the fourth it was, when the match was tied at 25 and BYU workhorse Jennifer Hamson went up on the right side. She blasted away and the ball appeared to sail long. But the up official called a touch on the block of Texas senior star Haley Eckerman.
Was it touched?
No, Eckerman said. I promise you that.
Hamson saw it differently.
A touch? I personally felt a touch, but you never know with like, yeah, it’s honestly the ref’s call and I think they do the best they can, she said.
Elliott’s reaction earned him a yellow card. He called time and when play resumed, with BYU eventually going to Hamson for what was her 53rd swing of the match. It was dug.
Number 54 was enough, because Hamson went off the top of the block by Amy Neal and Chiaka Ogbogu, the ball flew right by the Texas bench, and the Cougars celebrated on the Chesapeake Arena floor.
Hamson said she thought to swing high, because I kind of got blocked that first time, and I just went a little bit higher and caught her hands.
Elliott liked his chances if the Longhorns could force a fifth set.
We were able to get our middles going and change the transition game a little bit., Elliott said I thought they were starting to slow down physically. And that’s what we were hoping to do is get into that fifth set and give us a little more of a charge. I thought our passing was picking up and we did some nice things.
But BYU was up to the task and hung tough.
When we’re down, I don’t know, we just we all just come together as a team and we believe we can come back because we’re a great team and volleyball is a game of runs, said BYU’s Alexa Gray, who had 19 kills in 38 swings, hitting .421.
So we just know after they get their runs we’re going to get our runs so we’ll come back.
Hamson finished with a match-high 22 kills as the volleyball player-turned-basketball player-turned-volleyball star hit .241. She had seven of BYU’s 30 block assists. The Cougars, who lead the nation, had 17 total blocks, which included eight assists and a solo by Amy Boswell, who after most of them does a move that is something like running in place and jumping with her arms in the air.
It’s her happy dance, Gray said. I dont know, it’s kind of awkward. But it works. We like to see it.
Tambre Nobles added 11 kills and Whitney Young seven blocks.
BYU, now 30-4, has won 12 in a row since losing inexplicably in West Coast Conference play at Santa Clara.
The Cougars are exploring new territory every match.
Weve got kids who dont want this to end, said BYU fourth-year coach Shawn Olmstead, who earlier Thursday was named the AVCA National Coach of the Year. Ill hang out with them as long as they want to hang. Ill keep rolling with them. They did just an unbelievable job and kept their composure.
Big 12 champion Texas, which finished 27-3, was playing in the national semis for the third straight year with the task each time of playing a team that few could have imagined to be in the same situation. Two years ago, when the Longhorns eventually won the school’s second national title, they had to get past unseeded Michigan. Last year they ran into the Wisconsin buzz saw.
The defeat saw an end to the careers of two magnificent seniors, Eckerman and Khat Bell. Eckerman had nine kills, but eight errors in 30 swings and hit .033. Bell, who had some big attacks, nonetheless finished with nine kills, six errors, and hit .120. She led UT with seven block assists.
The Longhorns have to be excited that their bestand most energeticattacker was sophomore middle Ogbogu, who hit .500 with 14 kills and had six block assists.
I think the goals at Texas now are the standards we’ve created, said Elliott, who finished his 14th season in Austin. If we don’t get to a final four it’s a disappointing season, which is sad in sports, in coaching, but I think we reached two of our goals, was to get back to the final four and win the Big 12, which we did.
He was obviously upset about the touch call and made a plea for replay technology.
My disappointment is probably just where the angle it was called from, Elliott said. It’s human error. That’s why I’m saying the NCAA needs to look at it. This game is going so fast. And it’s a two-point switch.
Elliott takes defeats as hard as anyone.
We’re devastated that we didn’t win, he admitted. We thought we had a chance. We thought we had a chance tonight. I felt like Stanford and Penn State were the two best teams, but I thought we had a good fighting chance to give a shot at that.