Texas-Texas A&M: Throw out the records
A quick comparison of the teams' statistics suggest that the 19th-ranked Texas volleyball team should earn an easy victory on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at No. 23 Texas A&M, the first of two State Farm Lone Star Showdown matchups between the two teams in 2005.
However, matches are not played and won on the stats sheet, and that's why it's still either team's contest to win or lose on Wednesday when the teams meet in College Station.
When the two teams hit the court, the match won't be about who's ranked higher or who has won more matches in the series - Texas leads the all-time series 56-22, including a 17-12 mark in College Station - but it's about the match being part of one of the most intense rivalries in college sports: Texas vs. Texas A&M.
The current case in point: volleyball.
Texas enters the match on a roll, earning victories in its last three matches and eight of its last nine. Texas A&M has lost its last five matches and six of its last seven.
UT is in third place in the Big 12 with a 4-1 record and a 9-2 overall record. A&M, on the other hand, is in 10th place and yet to earn a victory at 0-4 in league play while holding a 7-6 overall record.
Texas is 2-0 against ranked teams in 2005, and Texas A&M is 0-5.
The Longhorns come in ranked 19th - and climbing - in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll, while the Aggies have steadily dropped from a high of No. 13 during the second week of September to stalling at No. 23 for the last two weeks.
You get the point: on paper, Texas should win...
But consider this: Texas has not won in College Station since 1998, a span of seven-straight losses at the Aggies' G. Rollie White Coliseum. In fact, Texas' only victories against Texas A&M since 2001 - head coach Jerritt Elliott's first year - have come via five-game wins at the Horns' own Gregory Gym in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
No matter what either team has done earlier in the season, the Texas-Texas A&M match comes down to one thing: pride for your team.
The last two years are a microcosm of what the rivalry has become recently as the two programs rank among the elite of collegiate volleyball.
In 2003, Texas was experiencing a rebuilding year, and the Aggies were riding junior All-American Melissa Munsch and reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Laura Jones. Texas A&M came into Austin on Oct. 1 ranked No. 22 nationally, while Texas had a 7-5 record entering the match. The Longhorns gutted out a 3-2 victory - capped by an 18-16 fifth-game win - behind the power of their own junior All-America stars Mira Topic and Bethany Howden.
Three-and-a-half weeks later in College Station on Oct. 24, UT limped into the match against the then-No. 21 Aggies after several major injuries and family emergencies that left the Longhorns' shorthanded. Texas A&M made quick work of the Longhorns with a three-game sweep (30-15, 30-17, 30-23) in front of a school-record crowd of 3,778.
In 2004, the roles were reversed from the previous year's meeting in College Station. Texas entered ranked ninth nationally and undefeated on the season at 16-0. Texas A&M was ranked No. 20, but had just a 2-4 record against ranked teams at that point in the season. Two hours and 12 minutes after the match started, Texas A&M emerged victorious with a 3-1 victory in which the Longhorns never really got going. (UT won the first game 34-32, but then lost the next three 30-24, 30-27 and 30-21.)
True to form, however, the two teams met up again three-and-a-half weeks later in Austin with Texas again ranked ninth and the Aggies - whose earlier victory over the Horns spurred an eight-match winning streak - ranked 13th. CSTV was at Gregory Gym to air the rematch and got one of the best matches of the season in college volleyball.
The Aggies won the first game 30-23, but Texas fought back in the second game and won 40-38 to knot the score heading into the intermission. UT came out in game three and won 30-23, but A&M rallied to delay defeat with a 30-25 win in the fourth game. It came down to the fifth and final game, where Texas pulled out a 15-10 win to defend its home court in front of the fourth-largest crowd - 3,608 - ever at Gregory Gym, and the biggest since 1999.
On Wednesday night, Texas could well walk out of G. Rollie White Coliseum with a victory, its first in the team's last eight attempts. But if that happens, it won't come easily and it won't come without a fight. Neither team will let up - and certainly not the Aggies on their home court.
The Texas-Texas A&M rivalry is too big for an easy match. Throw out the records and toss up the first serve ... the 2005 State Farm Lone Star Showdown has begun.
[Note: Texas is ahead, 1-0, in the 2005 State Farm Lone Star Showdown standings. The Longhorns' soccer team defeated the No. 13 Aggies, 2-1, in Austin on Oct. 2. A total of 19 points are up for grabs during the 2005-06 school year. Each volleyball match is worth 1/2 point in the overall standings. UT won the inaugural State Farm Lone Star Showdown in 2004-05, 14.5 to 4.5 The volleyball teams each earned 1/2 point for their respective schools in 2004.]