After being down 0-2, the Horned Frogs battled back to tie the match at two, only to drop the final set in nail-biting fashion.
“I think our team fought really hard tonight,” said head coach Jill Kramer.
Texas, undefeated in Big 12 play (4-0), looked unphased and ready to prove themselves early in front of a packed house and ESPN cameras.
Outside hitter Micaya White, last week’s Big 12 player of the week, had seven kills in the first set to go along with a .412 hitting percentage. White finished the match with 19 kills and 12 digs, showing why she was also voted the preseason Big 12 player of the year.
The Frogs had three service errors in the first set alone, along with a mere .184 hitting percentage.
“We missed a ton of serves in the first couple sets,” Kramer said. “That’s such a big part of our game.”
Regardless, thanks to the poise and leadership of sophomore setter Tori Dilfer, the Horned Frogs were able to stay competitive in the first set. Her 13 first-set assists gave TCU life offensively; however, the firepower of the Longhorns proved too much, and Texas prevailed 25-23.
Dilfer would finish the match with 52 total assists, reaching the 50 plus assist mark for the second-straight match.
“Tori does a really good job of learning about the other team and what it feels like to feel their blockers on the other side of the net as the match progresses,” Kramer said.
The story was much of the same in the second set. Texas looked bigger, stronger and more prepared to play than TCU. The Horned Frogs .139 hitting percentage, compared to the Longhorns’ .400, was too great a deficit and Texas won 25-22 to go up 2-0.
Although TCU continued to struggle offensively in the third set, they showed that they were not intimidated by the primetime setting and put together a defensive effort that turned the momentum of the match around.
“The hype was real, it was all up there,” Dilfer said. “In practice, I think we stayed really focused on the right stuff. Once we settled in, I think it drove that performance.”
Despite leading the Big 12 in hitting percentage with .304, Texas hit only .027 percent in the set. This was primarily due to the 20 total team digs by TCU, six of which came from defensive specialist Berklie Baker. Baker finished the match tied for a team-high 18 digs.
This defensive push gave TCU the life they needed, and they won the third set 25-20.
After starting the fourth set slowly, the Frogs found life offensively by the attack of senior middle blocker Anna Walsh and an ace from outside hitter Lexi MacLean. TCU finished the set on a 12-5 run to win 25-18.
“I think offensively, we’re the best we have ever been,” Dilfer said. “We have such a good flow, so I think that helped a lot tonight.”
Walsh had four of her 10 total kills in the set and all three of her digs. MacLean would also finish with three total aces on the match.
Down to their final set, the two teams scrapped and clawed for each point. With the Frogs and Longhorns fighting back-and-forth, there were eight ties in the set alone.
First-year outside hitter Èlan McCall rose to the occasion with 5 kills to go with an outstanding .714 hitting percentage. McCall would finish with a game-high 24 kills, along with 17 digs. This match extends her streak of games with double-digit kills to 15.
A kill by first-year middle blocker Katie Clark put the Frogs up 12-10 in the fifth set, but that point would be their final point of the night.
TCU dropped the final set 12-15 to lose the match 3-2. Clark would finish the match with a career-high 17 kills and 3 digs.
The Frogs drop to 10-5 on the season and 2-2 in Big 12 play. This was their first loss at home (9-1). TCU is now 1-15 against Texas in their all-time series.
Despite the loss, TCU stays confident, knowing that they showed the nation that they could hang with the best.
“Obviously a loss always sucks, but the confidence that tonight built is just going to keep building,” said Dilfer. “That’s the first time I’ve seen us play like that for that long of a match.”
TCU will play at home again on October 7 against Texas Tech, the top-ranked team in the Big 12. First serve is set for 1 p.m. inside the Rickell.
Update: A previous version said that Èlan McCall tied the TCU record for most consecutive games with double-digit kills. She is tied for second.