Texas is no stranger to the postseason. The Longhorns are seeking a return to the Final Four after falling in the quarterfinals last year. Before that, the team had made the Final Four five times in a row, winning the title in 2012 and finishing as the runner up in 2015 and 2016.
The journey to Minneapolis began with a bang for the Longhorns, who swept the Ladyjacks of SFA on Thursday by scores of 25-14, 25-17 and 25-21 to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“We’re excited to moving on to the next round,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said after the game. “As a staff, we were prepared for some nerves, which always happens whether you have a young team or a veteran team. How you manage your emotions is a big part of this. Overall, to be able to come in and win 3–0 is something I’m happy about.”
In the first set, it looked like the Ladyjacks were going to hang around with the Longhorns, matching them point for point. The turning point occurred when Elliott challenged a call that originally went SFA’s way, tying the set at 10 points apiece. The call was overturned and was the start of a six point run for the Longhorns, who never let SFA get close again.
In the first set, outside hitter Micaya White led the team in kills with six, while Jhenna Gabriel led the team in assists with 14. The first set was an excellent display of both the youth and the upperclassmen leadership the Longhorns currently boast.
“I think we just played our game,” White said. “We just tried to play consistently and tried not to think ahead. We took it one point at a time.”
The second set was much of the same for Texas. SFA hung around to prevent a blowout, but the Longhorns were not in any danger of losing, with defense continuing to be excellent. The set featured several impressive rallies with both teams displayed athleticism to keep the play alive.
“Every single day in our gym, it’s super competitive, and we’re always working hard and playing our hardest during practice,” outside hitter Logan Eggleston said. “I think that’s one thing that prepares us for games like this with teams that play at 100 percent all the time. We were super prepared for this game and they did a great job with that.”
The third set was much closer than the previous two. The Longhorns dominated the Ladyjacks at the net, never giving the SFA offense a chance to develop any sort of rhythm, but errors and sloppy play allowed SFA to stay within three for a majority of the set. Texas leaned on scrappy play to pull off the sweep and earn the ticket to the next round of the playoffs.
“I’m pleased with the way we played tonight and we’ll keep moving forward,” Elliott said. “Tomorrow we will be challenged and need to emotionally ready. That’s what I told my team in the locker room.”
Texas will play Texas State tonight at 8 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.