Volleyball defeats Texas A&M in five-game thriller
AUSTIN, Texas -- Senior All-Americans Mira Topic (Kastela Kambelovac, Croatia) and Bethany Howden (Austin, Texas) each recorded season highs in kills as the No. 9 Texas volleyball team defeated No. 13 Texas A&M, 3-2 (23-30, 40-38, 30-23, 25-30, 15-10), in front of 3,608 fans - fifth-largest crowd ever at Gregory Gym - on Thursday night in a match crucial to determining the top two places in the Big 12 standings.
Texas (21-2, 13-2 Big 12) moved a full match ahead of A&M (16-6, 12-4 Big 12) in the standings and still has a chance to claim the top spot in the conference.
Topic ripped 33 kills - the third-highest total in Texas history and the highest output in the Big 12 this season - and Howden added 21 as Texas pushed its winning streak to five matches. Topic's double-double (33 kills, 17 digs) paced the team as UT had to battle back in the fifth-game tiebreaker after squandering a 2-1 lead in the match.
Two other Longhorns added double-doubles as freshman Michelle Moriarty (Houston, Texas) easily set new career highs with 77 assists and 13 digs. Sophomore Dariam Acevedo (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico) had 11 kills and 11 digs. UT was out-hit for just the fourth time in 2004 as A&M hit for a .303 mark - the highest mark by a Texas opponent this season - and UT swung for a .275 mark. Sophomore Lauren Galler (Austin, Texas) came off the bench to connect for seven kills and added five digs and three blocks in four games of play.
With the victory, Texas claimed one-half point in the State Farm Lone Star Shootout standings and pulled the Horns to within one point of the Aggies in the season standings. Texas A&M now has 2.5 points (one point for soccer, one point for women's cross country, one-half point for volleyball) while Texas has 1.5 points (one point for men's cross country, one-half point for volleyball).
Texas initially dropped the first game of the match before winning the following two to go ahead 2-1. The Aggie rallied back to take game four and force a decisive game five. The Horns fell behind, 3-1, in the final game before Texas reeled off four straight points to take the lead for good at 5-3. The closest the Aggies would get was 7-5, as the Horns closed out the match on a 7-3 run.
"Tonight was a night about fighting," Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said after the emotional victory. "Both teams played really hard all night. I was really proud of our confidence in game five and this was a nice way for Mira and Bethany to finish their careers in this rivalry. Lauren Galler did a great job off the bench, playing all over the court.
"Tonight's crowd was absolutely unbelievable. We came close to filling Gregory and this had to be one of the biggest crowd ever! The fans were incredible and never gave up and helped push us through the match. It was a fantastic atmosphere for any fan of volleyball," Elliott concluded.
"Tonight was a really emotional and exciting match, especially for Mira and me," Howden added. "It was great to help out the whole University with one-half point in the Lone Star Showdown. It's always a heated rivalry between us and A&M and it's easy to get pumped up for it. And this being the last time we'll face them in the regular season, Mira and I were a little more excited to play tonight. It was great to see the whole team play well tonight in front of an absolutely fantastic crowd."
Topic's 33 kills were the third-highest total in Texas history, as she now hold the top four single-game kill totals in the record books. The 33 kills was also the highest-ever total allowed to one player by the Aggies.
The 3,608 fans was the fifth-largest crowd ever to watch a volleyball match at Gregory Gym, and it was the 13th-largest crowd ever at Texas. Additionally, it was the largest crowd at Texas since Oct. 23, 1999 when UT hosted 3,907 fans at Gregory for a match against Nebraska.
The Longhorns return to action on Sunday, Nov. 14, when they travel to Missouri for a 1 p.m. match in Columbia. Texas swept Mizzou, 3-0, in the teams' first meeting of the season, on Oct. 13 at Gregory.