With a 35-0 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament’s first round on the line, the No. 2-seed Texas Longhorns defeated the Texas A&M Aggies 3-1 on Thursday at Gregory Gym in the Austin Regional, overcoming a first-set defeat.
Texas hit .241 compared to .131 for Texas A&M as the Longhorns recovered from 10 attacking errors in the first set with star outside hitter Madisen Skinner recording a game-high 20 kills and middle blocker Asjia O’Neal was virtually flawless in recording 14 kills with no attacking errors for a .538 hitting percentage and a game-high 10 blocks in a dominating performance at the net.
The match’s opening point set the state for the first set, a 25-21 loss by Texas — Skinner, just named the program’s fourth consecutive Big 12 Player of the Year, committed an attacking error, one of five by Skinner that left her with a negative hitting percentage in the opening set. The Aggies eventually scored 10 straight points to take control of the set, aided by six attacking errors from the Longhorns. Texas recovered enough to run off streaks of four consecutive points and five consecutive points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome all the mistakes, including some confusion on the final point that failed to even produce a set by Jerritt Elliott’s team.
Switching sides, Texas came out on fire in the second set, winning the first 10 points thanks to five attacking errors by Texas A&M and O’Neal, who had three kills during that desire run and finished with seven in the second set, a convincing 25-13 win as the Horns increased their hitting percentage from .024 to .382.
Three kills by Skinner marked the first three points by the Longhorns in the third set, a back-and-forth affair in the early going with neither team creating separation. Trailing 15-13, Texas won seven of nine points, prompting two timeouts by Texas A&M because of four attacking errors and a service error. Out of the second timeout, Skinner and setter Ella Swindle both had kills to extend the margin to 22-17 and then 23-18 on an angled swing by Skinner. A crucial service error by the Aggies afforded the Longhorns set point with O’Neal serving, but it took another Texas A&M service error for Texas to take the set, 25-20, as O’Neal controlled the net for the Longhorns.
The attack continued to run through Skinner in the fourth set with five kills on the first six points by Texas before middle blocker Bella Bergmark saw more action with three kills of her own as the Longhorns started to create some separation, leading 15-11 at a timeout following kills by O’Neal and Skinner. Consecutive attacking errors by the Aggies forced a timeout at 17-12 with Texas momentum threatening to end Texas A&M’s season. The timeout didn’t work as the Longhorns scored two more points — the Aggies called timeout again in desperation after a ruthless kill by O’Neal on an overset. On a slide, O’Neal pushed a ball into the middle for another point. A&M managed to trade points for over the next seven exchanges, not exactly a recipe for mounting a comeback until three straight points caused Elliott to call a timeout with a focus on finishing the match. Two more points by the Aggies narrowed the score to 23-20 as Elliott challenged a call confirmed on review.
No. 7-seed SMU advanced to the second round earlier Thursday with a 3-0 win over Texas State. Friday’s matchup is set for 7:00 p.m. Central.