FORT WORTH, Texas – Texas Tech volleyball dug out of an early hole and used a big run through the third and fourth sets to capture a hard-fought 3-1 victory over TCU Thursday at TCU’s Recreation Center and advance to the finals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
Behind big performances from senior Kate Klepetka and sophomore Chandler Atwood, the Red Raiders (19-14, 4-12) saved four set points in the third, rallying with a 6-0 run to take the set and a 2-1 lead. They expanded the run to 13-0 with the first seven points of the fourth on their way to a 23-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-15 victory and improve to 3-0 against TCU this season.
Texas Tech heads to the NIVC Finals where it will play the winner of Ole Miss and West Virginia, who play their semifinal match Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Oxford, Miss. The championship match will take place Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. CT at either West Virginia or Ole Miss.
“That was one of the most fun matches we have had in a long time,” head coach Tony Graystone said. “To play a team that we know so well, that’s a rival and conference opponent we’ve seen three times – and they started out hot. We were down 13-10 in the second set, and I called timeout and really got on them. I’m so proud of how they responded. To come back and win that third set – that’s not supposed to happen. You’re trying to hang on and go one at a time. Kate was serving, and Chandler put up a great block. It just worked out for us.”
Atwood racked up a match-high 19 kills, including nine in the second set and six in the fourth. The Allen, Texas, native was involved in four points during Tech’s 6-0 rally in the third with a kill and two block assists and a solo block.
Fellow sophomore Emily Hill added 12 and finished with 15 digs for her 14th double-double of the season. Middle blocker Katy Keenan and setter Missy Owens chipped in nine kills each.
While Tech had one of its best blocking matches of the season, Klepetka was the star defensively, matching a season-high with 32 digs. Freshman Emerson Solano contributed a career-high 14 digs to go with Hill’s 15.
With 13 blocks on the night, Tech matched its season high and outblocked the Frogs 13.0 to 11.0. Keenan matched her career high with seven on the night, while Owens posted a career-high with six.
Tech finished with 58 team kills to TCU’s 47, outhitting the Horned Frogs .202 to .105. The Red Raiders are hitting .286 through its four-match run in the NIVC while holding opponents to .167 hitting. Key in the offensive uptick are Atwood and Hill, who have recorded 4.57 and 4.50 kills per set, respectively.
TCU is the first Big 12 team eliminated from the tournament as all three Big 12 teams in the field reached the semifinals. The Horned Frogs, who were led by 13 kills apiece from Anna Walsh and Lexi MacLean, finish the season at 15-17 overall.
HOW IT HAPPENED
In the first set, Tech led by four early on at 9-5, forcing a TCU timeout. From there, the set tightened with neither side able to gain a comfortable lead. TCU closed on a 4-1 run thank to three hitting errors from Tech, gaining the 1-0 advantage.
Tech evened the match in the second behind the arm of Atwood. The Allen, Texas, native posted nine kills in the frame, fueling a 7-0 run to close out the frame. After hitting just .114 in the first, Tech’s offense came to life with a .311 clip in the second stanza.
TCU seemed in control of the third set, holding set point at 24-20. The Red Raiders, however, stormed back as Atwood was involved in a kill and then two blocks to make it 24-23. After another Tech block gave Tech set point, Keenan capped off the rally with a slide kill to give Tech the 2-1 advantage.
The Red Raiders carried that momentum into the fourth, scoring the first seven points of the frame for a combined 13-0 run spanning the third and fourth sets. Atwood tallied six more kills in the stanza, matching TCU’s team total of six as Tech cruised to the win.
With the win, Texas Tech has secured its most win sin a season since 2000.
Texas Tech won all three meetings with the Horned Frogs in 2017, improving to 9-9 all-time against TCU.
With four wins in the NIVC, Tech is now 7-8 overall in postseason history.
Sophomores Chandler Atwood and Emily Hill have been in double figures in every match of the NIVC.
Klepetka’s 32 digs matched the most in a match by a Red Raider this season and was seven more than the previous best in a four-set match.
Atwood led the team in kills for the 13th time, second most on the team behind Hill.
Tech’s 13.0 team blocks were its most since recording the same number against South Carolina on Sept. 16.
Atwood’s 19 kills matched the fourth-highest total for a Red Raider this season.
Texas Tech advances to the NIVC Finals on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN3. The Red Raiders will travel to play the winner of West Virginia and Ole Miss. The Mountaineers and Rebels play their semifinal match on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CT in Oxford, Miss. As always, be sure to follow @TexasTechVB on Twitter for live updates and check out www.TexasTech.com for everything Red Raider volleyball.