On Friday, Texas pushed the Louisville Cardinals to brink of elimination. Yet, the Cardinals slipped past the Longhorns in five sets (22-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-18, 15-12) in their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005.
Senior outside hitter Micaya White and sophomore outside hitter Logan Eggleston kept fans on the edge of their seat with 37 kills. But, 23 kills by redshirt freshman opposite hitter Aiko Jones helped the Cardinals move on.
“I love this team so much, we had such a great year, and I’m really sad it ended like that,” Eggleston said. “Louisville is a really great team, and I wish we could have responded like we had many times over the season.”
The Cardinals agile front line challenged the Longhorns early in the first set. They were pressured into seven attack errors.
However, it appeared that the Longhorns were poised to make another comeback cutting the deficit to 23-24. Yet, a coach's challenge by Louisville dismantled the attempt.
Instant replay ruled that Texas had touched the net during the middle of an attack constituting a net violation. The Cardinals escaped winning the set.
In spite of the early frustration, Texas started to find their rhythm in set two. The offense built steam increasing their hitting percentage to .310.
Eggleston finished the set with four kills and White added four more kills as well. Even though the Longhorns were playing well, they couldn’t break away from the Cardinals.
Jones was one of the primary reasons for this. She tallied six kills on a hitting percentage of .857. The Cardinals clawed back from the early deficit and won another set.
“I think no matter what the outcome was going to be we were going to go down swinging,” Jones said. “We were going to go down as a family, and that’s what kept us together.”
The Longhorns had their backs against the wall, they had to win three more sets to keep their national championship hopes alive.
Three thrilling sets ensued, as the Longhorns didn’t crumble and started a comeback.
Texas kept the pedal to the metal in the third set, forcing the Cardinals into eight attack errors finishing with a hitting percentage of .375 capturing their first victory of the match.
The combination of White and Eggleston continued to do what they had done several times throughout the season. They brought the Gregory Gym crowd to its feet.
Even though the Longhorns were far from their ultimate goal, they now had a glimmer of hope.
Sophomore middle blocker Brionne Butler started with a big block that set the tone defensively for Texas. The Longhorns forced six attack errors and four service errors in another winning effort.
All the chips were on the table, and both teams were about to go all in. Alas, Louisville never looked back taking an early lead and winning the fifth set.
“I think we felt good momentum going forward because we took two sets off of them,” Eggleston said. “I think they really started executing, and we just weren't doing our side.”
Texas has an offseason of big change ahead since they lose White.
“She’s a big part of this program,” said Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott. “She’s someone who stayed for five years, she didn’t have to do that and were thankful for that.”
However, Elliott looks forward to beginning the process again.
“We got a lot of great kids in our program,” Elliott said. “I think this lesson will sit with some of them, and they have a chance to reflect on that."