After an offseason characterized by pandemic uncertainty and calls for social reform from student-athletes, the Texas volleyball team is set to open its 2020 season Thursday.
The Longhorns will play at Oklahoma in their first match of a modified conference-only schedule in which they’ll face each Big 12 team twice on back-to-back nights for a total of 16 regular-season matches.
“We’re excited to finally get to play some volleyball,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said in a teleconference Tuesday.
Despite the loss of first team All-American Micaya White, Texas returns a strong squad led by a trio of preseason Big 12 honorees in junior middle blocker Brionne Butler, junior outside hitter Logan Eggleston and sophomore opposite hitter Skylar Fields. The Longhorns also added a pair of transfers in junior outside hitter Capri Davis and graduate student libero Morgan O’Brien.
"Morgan brings experience and talent to our libero position," Elliott said in August. "She will compete from day one and make our back court exciting to watch and tough to compete against."
Last year, Texas finished 23–4 with a strong 14–1 record at home. The Longhorns’ only home loss came in an upset to Louisville during the third round of the NCAA Tournament last December. Texas lost the first two sets of the match but fought back to force a fifth, only to come up short in the end. The loss marked the first time since 2005 that the Longhorns didn’t make it to the fourth round of the NCAA Tournament.
Expectations are still high this year for Texas as a program that consistently performs as one of the best in the country. Since 1981, Texas has failed to make the NCAA Tournament just twice.
Unlike in years past, Texas won’t be playing its home matches in the raucous atmosphere of Gregory Gymnasium. Instead, the team’s matches will take place in the Frank Erwin Center, allowing fans to attend while following social distancing guidelines.
Regarding a potential postseason, the NCAA Division I Council recently announced plans to move all fall championships to the spring of 2021. Elliott said it is unclear whether Texas will play any nonconference matches in the time between Big 12 play and the postseason.
“The only thing that we can focus on right now is one day at a time and try to figure out a way to win this conference,” Elliott said. “Being on the road twice at Oklahoma poses threats, and we’ve got to make sure that we take care of that so we can be in the discussion of the NCAA Tournament.”