Another sweep has No. 2 Texas volleyball feeling right at home
It’s been 15 months since the Texas volleyball team last played at Gregory Gymnasium, its high-energy home known for raucous shouts of “Point Texas.” But since September, the No. 2 Longhorns have been just fine at the Erwin Center, which might be their good luck charm — they haven’t dropped a contest at the venue.
The team continued its win streak at UT’s basketball arena Monday night in a three-set 25-19, 25-18, 25-18 victory over Texas State (27-5). It was the Longhorns’ fourth outing in their nine-match spring schedule.
Since undefeated Texas (18-0) returned to the court on Feb. 26, it hasn’t missed a beat, despite shaking off a bit of rust. The Longhorns handled rival Oklahoma in three sets on consecutive nights. Texas didn’t let No.6 Baylor make it to a fifth set. And the Bobcats, while stingy in the second and third sets, were never in total control Monday night.
“We’ve had a much shorter time of coming back, getting their bodies ready, trying to find an offensive rhythm,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Tonight was the first time I felt like we had a really good rhythm, and I’m hoping we can continue that.”
The Longhorns haven’t lost the flare that led them to the Big 12 title in November, but they’re kind of a new team. Logan Eggleston, had 11 digs and converted 8 kills on 24 attacks. Sophomore Skylar Fields led the team with 13 kills and 14 points. But freshman Melanie Parra — the new addition — made some noise with five kills on 13 attacks.
Parra, who was responsible for five points throughout the match, hails from Mexico. Along with Adhu Malual, a freshman from Rome, Italy, Parra did not compete with the team last semester due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Elliott said the two have had to reacclimate to the game since they arrived in Austin in January. They’ve done well so far, the coach said, but he wishes Malual could have more playing time. He likes what he sees from Parra.
“She does a lot of things that you don’t see on the stats,” Elliott said. “She has a lot of clean touches. Her passing is really good. She’s good from the service line, and she’s just a really good volleyball player.”
Eggleston said Parra and Malual also add extra competition to the gym, and everyone is improving as a result.
“They’ve already blown us away with how great and talented they are, but they’re also just teaching us so much about the game,” she said.
The new faces aren’t the only thing different about this spring team. Ashley Shook, a former Texas setter, entered the transfer portal after the fall semester. While the Longhorns lost a veteran in Shook, Elliott said leadership on the team hasn’t wavered. Eggleston is the go-to captain, but it doesn’t stop with her.
“I think Bri (Butler) brings some nice personality. Skylar does at times. Jhenna (Gabriel) does. There’s just a lot of different people that can step up and be in that position,” Elliott said. Butler had 10 kills and seven blocks in the match.
A point of emphasis for Eggleston is making sure the team stays focused, especially with the NCAA Tournament approaching on April 14.
This slew of games has been a bit of a reset for the team during a long year of mask-wearing and coronavirus testing, so Eggleston said she sometimes forgets the fall season even happened.
The Longhorns will have a chance to keep their streak alive when they return to the Erwin Center on Wednesday to play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, not that they’re thinking too hard about the numbers.
“It feels nice to be 18-0, or whatever we are,” Eggleston said, “but it doesn’t really mean anything until we win the national championship, so we’re not thinking too much about it.”