Volleyball advances to Sweet 16 with 3-1 win over Michigan
AUSTIN, Texas -- Senior All-American Mira Topic (Kastela Kambelovac, Croatia) overcame her early struggles to record 22 kills, and sophomore Dariam Acevedo (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico) stepped up with 12 timely kills and 12 digs as sixth-seeded and 11th ranked Texas advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament with a 30-19, 30-27, 23-30, 30-28 victory over Michigan in the sub-regional final at Gregory Gym on Saturday night.
Longhorns sophomore Brandy Magee (Mission Viejo, Calif.) added 13 kills and a .545 attack percentage and freshman libero Alyson Jennings had 19 digs to lead the Longhorns to the round of 16 for the first time since 1998.
Texas (26-4) will face 11th seed and sixth-ranked Stanford on Saturday, Dec. 10 in the semifinals of the Green Bay, Wisc. Regional. The Cardinal defeated Florida, 3-2, in the Tallahassee sub-regional final on Saturday evening to advance to the Sweet 16.
"This was a tough match for us," Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. "I thought we came out and really executed well in games one and two. Our serving was critical to the success of our team. In Game three we got a little tight, but we were able to work through it. In Game four, Bethany [Howden] made two big plays in a row with a block and a jump serve.
"That is what this tournament is about; we are playing so many good teams and there are so many upsets so you really have to take care of your side, and I was pleased with the freshmen and sophomores, and the two seniors. We were able to execute and will be back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1998," Elliott added.
Texas improved its all-time NCAA Tournament record to 45-19 overall and 32-7 in matches played in Austin.
With her 22 kills, Topic set the Texas single-season kills record, passing Dee Sance's school record 565 which she set as a freshman in 1995. Topic now has 576 with the opportunity to add to that in the Sweet 16.
Michigan (20-13) out-hit Texas, .201 to .156, on the match, and posted 17 blocks to Texas' nine, but the Wolverines were unable to shut down Topic down the stretch as Texas pulled out the victory.
"Their blocking is very solid" Elliott said. "For us to be able to execute, we have to drive hard and be able to create some gaps. In that conference [Big Ten], they are playing the best. We need to make better decisions in regards to attacking selections."
Four Michigan players recorded double-figure kills, led by senior Jennifer Gandolph's 15. Freshman Katie Bruzdzunski had 12 and 13 digs, while sophomore Erin Cobler had 11 and freshman Lyndsay Miller had 10. Sophomore Megan Bowman had a match-high 11 blocks, while Cobler added eight.
For Texas, senior Bethany Howden (Austin, Texas) had five blocks, while Topic had four.
Texas won the battle at the service line, collecting nine aces to Michigan's one. The Wolverines also had 15 service errors, while the Longhorns only racked up seven. Howden had a match-high five aces, marking the second-straight night a UT player had five aces.
"I'm proud of how our team played," Michigan head coach Mark Rosen said. "Our kids came in and played hard. They were down 2-0 and fought to get back in. I thought they did an excellent job with the environment.
"In the end we hurt ourselves, though. We made too many errors. When you have more kills than the other team, you have a higher hitting percentage, and you out-defend them, you expect to win the match. We got ourselves in a little bit of trouble. That's something that's been an issue with us, and it caught up to us. But I'm proud of how our team played, and I think Texas should be proud of how they played," Rosen continued.
After Michigan scored the opening point in the first game, Texas used an early 5-0 run to pull ahead and didn't look back, building the lead to as much as 10 points at 18-8. Michigan used a quick 5-0 run - fueled by a pair of blocks - to pull back within five points, but UT responded with its own 4-0 spurt and didn't look back.
In the second game, Texas pulled ahead by six points - at 18-12 - before Michigan clawed back to tie the game at 23-23 and then force another tie at 24-24. UT then went up 28-25 before Michigan scored two-straight points to pull within one point again, but the Wolverines had a service error and Howden and Michelle Moriarty (Houston, Texas) had a block to end the game.
Michigan came back in game three, using a 5-0 run to go ahead 12-9 and take control of the game. Three-straight Topic kills brought the two teams back even, but Michigan put together another 5-0 run that included two of the Wolverines' 17 blocks to claim a lead it would not surrender.
Game four followed a similar script, but Texas was the team that used a mid-game run to take control of the game. UT used three quick scores to move ahead 12-9 and built its advantage to 17-12 and then to 21-15. Michigan chipped away at the lead and tied the fourth game at 28-28. However, Topic came up with a kill to give Texas game point, and Howden bounced the game-winning ace just inside the back line to hand the match to Texas.
Longhorns fans should check TexasSports.com for the Longhorns' schedule in Green Bay, and the match time for the Stanford match. A live Internet broadcast will be streamed through Yahoo, as Thomas Lee and Spencer Kitley will provide Longhorns fans the play-by-play for the Horns' remainder of the postseason.
On adjustments made after being down 2-0 ...
On defending Mira Topic ...
On Michigan's blocking ...
Michigan senior outside hitter Jennifer Gandolph
Texas Head Coach Jerritt Elliott
On preparing for Michigan ...
On Michigan's blocking ...
On sitting Mira Topic in Game 3 ...
On clutch situations ...
Texas senior middle blocker Bethany Howden
On playing at home ...