It’s been eight years since former Texas kicker Justin Tucker ended the football portion of the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry in style with a game-winner. Some members of both parties have tried to insist that there is no longer animosity between Texas and A&M. But as Texas volleyball gears up for a home match against the Aggies on Friday, it’s clear someone forgot to tell Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott.
“It’s in your blood,” Elliott said. “Some of the kids who have parents who have played here and been a part of this — I don’t think anyone would play A&M and say it’s not a rivalry.”
Gregory Gym has been sold out since Sept. 9. The atmosphere will be electric, but there are no longer concerns with jitters for Texas as it has already played in — and won — several high-stakes matchups.
Yet the Longhorns did not come out on top in the final match before the rivalry game. Texas went to Rice on Wednesday and lost in five sets after falling behind 2-0.
It was a shocking loss for a Texas team that really hadn’t stumbled up to that point. The loss comes at an interesting point in the season for the Longhorns. It turns Friday’s match from just a high-pressure game against an in-state rival to one that could become pivotal in the course of the season.
“I don’t think there are nerves anymore,” Elliott said. “I think this team right now has a lot of confidence in the person that’s standing right next to them. That helps a lot with our confidence as a team.”
Whether or not Texas’ confidence is shot after the shocking loss to the Owls remains to be seen. The Aggies roll into Austin with an 8–1 record, their only loss coming to No. 25 Louisville. As a team with new head coach Laura Kuhn and several new contributing players, Texas A&M should be in a position to rebuild, but instead could pose more trouble to the Longhorns.
“The new coach is doing a nice job” Elliott said. “It’ll be a fun match for us to compete. It’s always great to have a sold-out crowd, especially when it’s Texas A&M. I’m glad we’re playing this match. I think it’s great for the athletes to experience. It’s what college athletics is all about.”
While many players on the team have yet to face A&M, the sheer gravity of the matchup will carry the energy of the team. As the Longhorns try to rebound from the loss, the path of this season could fork on Friday night.
“There’s definitely no pump-up speeches that need to be happening,” Elliott said. “It’s just kind of keeping them calm because they’re going to be super excited. … I hope there’s butterflies. You want butterflies as a coach because that means that there’s some excitement and some energy.”