The Texas volleyball team didn’t bring the right attitude or mentality into a four-set (25-20, 21-25, 25-18, 26-24) loss to fourth-ranked Florida in the Vert Challenge at Gregory Gym.
The third-ranked Longhorns started sluggish in the first set, committed too many errors, and didn’t finish strong as they did one night earlier in a victory over Nebraska.
“I was very disappointed in our level of commitment to competing,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I don’t think we battled and, ultimately, I don’t think we ever believed we could win that match.”
There could have been a built-in excuse, but Elliott and his players didn’t blame the loss on the absence of Ebony Nwabenu, who led the team with 22 kills against Nebraska.
The 6-foot, 5-inch outside hitter wasn’t dressed for the match and watched with a walking boot on her right foot. When asked if the injury occurred against Nebraska, Elliott just confirmed “she is injured.”
“We’ve been playing without her all preseason, I don’t think it has anything to do with that,” Chiaka Ogbogu said.
With Nwanebu out, Texas went back to the lineup it had used the first three matches of the season. Freshman Morgan Johnson took an expanded role at middle blocker, while Paulina Cerame helped fill the void as an outside hitter.
No matter the lineup, Texas wasn’t happy with how it started the match.
“We just kind of looked scared out there,” senior Amy Neal said. “Last night we were a lot more aggressive in our approach.”
And a multitude of errors made things worse.
Between hitting, serving, blocking, and return mistakes Texas committed 41 errors. Way too many against a top-five team, Elliott said.
“Thats more than 10 per set,” he said. “We need that number around five or six (errors) at most.”
Even with the mistakes, Texas had a chance to extend the match in the fourth set which was tied at 24. But, Florida won back-to-back points to finish the two-day tournament with an unblemished record.
With the win, Florida should jump Texas in the AVCA poll on Monday.
Even with a drop in the rankings, Texas should be an improved team after the two-day tournament — which had the feel of an NCAA Regional Tournament.
“I think it’ll make us more competitive,” Neal said. “It’ll make us realize anyone can beat us. Florida is a very good team, with a very good middle. It shows what we need to work on, and to wake up when the game is on the line.”
Texas is home next weekend for the Texas Classic against UTSA, Santa Clara, and Colorado State.