No. 3 Volleyball wins share of Big 12 title with sweep of Colorado
Nov. 29, 2008Final Stats | Photo Gallery
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas senior All-America middle blocker Lauren Paolini posted 13 kills on senior night to lead the third-ranked Longhorns to a 3-0 victory over Colorado and a share of the Big 12 Conference title. The 25-21, 25-13, 25-17 win pushed the Horns season mark to 25-3 overall and 18-2 in the Big 12, while the Buffaloes fell to 13-16 and 7-13 in league action.
After trailing to start the first set, Texas claimed a 6-5 lead on a kill by junior All-America outside hitter Destinee Hooker. Texas then went on a 6-2 run capped by a Hooker kill that moved the tally to 14-10 before a block by Paolini and freshman setter Michelle Kocher increased the margin to 19-14. Colorado rallied down the stretch to shrink the lead to three (23-20), but kills from freshman middle blocker Jennifer Doris and Paolini sealed the game, 25-21.
In the second frame, Texas blew the set open with a 6-0 run paced by three kills from junior All-America opposite hitter Ashley Engle that put UT ahead, 16-8. A second 6-0 UT run aided by a Kocher solo block moved the Longhorns' advantage to 23-10. Paolini then closed out her second straight set with a kill, ending the stanza 25-13.
Paolini came on strong again in the third set, registering six kills on .857 hitting in her final regular season set at Gregory Gym. With the score knotted at seven, Paolini headlined a 10-1 run with five kills that advanced the Texas lead to 16-7. Colorado battled back to narrow the lead to five (19-14), but two late kills by freshman middle blocker Rachael Adams and a set-ending kill by Paolini closed out the set, 25-17.
Paolini registered her eighth error-free hitting performance in Big 12 play with 13 kills on 15 swings and an .867 attack mark. Engle and Hooker each added 11 kills and 11 digs in the victory.
Texas now awaits its NCAA Tournament fate, which will be announced on the NCAA selection show at 9 p.m. Central on Sunday, Nov. 30 on ESPNU.
On why Texas should be a number-one seed in the NCAA tournament: I think we played a tough enough schedule. We have some real quality wins. I think we have been on a really good streak the last few matches; we lost one match only. I think our conference has showed up. We took two out of three in the Pac-10/Big 12 challenge. There are not many teams that have only lost three times. I think there's only a handful. So I think it's well-deserved. We've been consistent all year and I think we deserve it.
On the importance of getting a number-one seed: It's determined by what the NCAA decides to do with us. It really doesn't matter. There are benefits obviously, but it means that there's a target on your back. You've still got to be able to execute. We've been a one seed, this could be our second year in a row. We didn't advance to the Final Four like our goal was. It's more about us playing well. We're going to face some really good performances from some really good conferences and the level of competition is going to really heat up. With (25-point sets), it's got to be about us.
SENIOR MIDDLE BLOCKER Lauren Paolini
SENIOR DEFENSIVE SPECIALIST Kiley Hall
JUNIOR OPPOSITE HITTER Ashley Engle
On reflecting upon the loss in the NCAA Regional Final against USC last season: I think it taught us a really big lesson. We weren't prepared. They came out and punched us first, and we kind of fell back and were knocked out, I guess you could say. We're not going to let that happen again. We've learned from it and I think we've really matured as a team, from that point until now.