Much of this season has seen Texas volleyball in uncharted territory. The Longhorns clawed their way to a No. 1 ranking and have swept through most of the Big 12.
Heading into two home conference matchups this week, Texas again found itself in an unfamiliar position — in the best way possible.
In its 3-1 defeat of Oklahoma in Norman last Friday, Texas did something it hadn’t in some time: The team lost a set. Nine matches, spanning more than a month of conference play, separate the last two times the Longhorns have dropped even a single set.
With that streak now in the rearview mirror and Texas still in the driver’s seat of the Big 12, the loss of a set is simply a teaching moment.
“When you look back, it was good for us to lose a (set),” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We (hadn’t) lost a (set) in 31 games in a row. I wanted to see how they’d respond to that, and they responded really well, so I was proud of them for that.”
The highest-ranked team the Longhorns faced off with was Baylor more than two weeks ago, and even that match ended in a sweep of the No. 1 Bears. While he said as a coach, he never welcomes losses, Elliott believes the test of responding to a loss in a hostile environment is just another way this young team has had to develop this year.
“We need to face some adversity to continue to grow as a team and develop for the rest of the conference schedule,” Elliott said.
Texas heads into this week’s two-game home stand with momentum abound. This is now the third consecutive week Texas finds itself ranked No. 1 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. Elliott has continuously stated the team doesn’t draw any meaning from the rankings, but every home match has been what’s expected from a country’s top team — a rowdy atmosphere and every opponent’s best shot.
The Longhorns’ schedule this week consists of two matches in Gregory Gym against two teams the Longhorns have previously swept in Kansas and Fort Worth. The youth of the Texas rotation could let the moment and hype of a thumping Gregory Gym get to them. But if they continue to do anything they’ve shown thus far, Elliott’s squad looks to be in good shape to continue this roll into a huge match in Waco on Nov. 20.
“They understand what it means. They embrace it,” Elliott said. “This group, I have not seen any anxiety from them playing in front of our crowd … They get excited but also have a calmness to them when they’re playing in front of it.”