Red River Rivalry: Volleyball edition

Wills Layton

Sports are defined by rivalries. The best rivalry is often debated, but UT and OU have made up their minds. They choose the Red River Rivalry every time.

After the Longhorn football team won in the 113th football rendition of the rivalry in nail-biter fashion on Oct. 6, the volleyball team travels to Norman trying to do the same.

Texas is coming off a relatively bad loss to Kansas on Wednesday, losing in four sets to the unranked Jayhawks. The loss marks the Longhorns’ first in conference play and was the first stop on the Longhorns’ two-game road trip. Errors attacking and serving plagued the squad throughout the night and proved fatal in Wednesday night’s downfall.

“I think it’s really something that I need to start embracing,” freshman Brionne Butler said. “We have had problems with serving, but I think it’s just a mindset we have to have. We just need to get out of our heads.”

Before the Kansas loss, the team rattled off five straight Big 12 wins — good enough for second place in the conference. A large part of that success rests on the shoulders of the veterans. The upperclassmen have a plethora of postseason experience and have helped bring along the younger players so far this season.

“We’ve had really good leadership,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Each year, the team changes dramatically, and we’ve had a lot of good leaders. But this year’s group really wanted to stay connected. This group just plays, and they enjoy playing, and I’m excited about it.”

In addition to wanting to defeat one of its biggest rivals, Texas views postseason seeding as increasingly important as the season progresses. With only 10 games remaining in the regular season, strong performances are a must for a team with title aspirations.

Considering the Big 12 is one of the weaker conferences in NCAA volleyball, Texas’ matchup with Oklahoma will determine if the Longhorns maintain their current top-five ranking. If the team can continue winning and also avoid tough road losses, seeding should not be a concern by season’s end.

“Every game is important now,” Elliott said. “We are trying to take it one match and one practice at a time so that we can put a run together. If we are able to do that over a period of time, then we’ll put ourselves in a position to be a top-four seed.”

The Longhorns and Sooners begin play at 7 p.m. at the McCasland Field House in Norman on Saturday.