Texas volleyball upset by Rice in first loss of season

Maya Martinez

Nothing lasts forever. Not even Texas volleyball’s win streak.

The Longhorns were looking to punctuate their home schedule with a win over Rice at the Frank Erwin Center on Tuesday evening, but a resilient Owl squad wouldn’t let that happen. Texas fell 3-2 for its first loss of the season.

In a strong 25-10 victory in the opening set, the Longhorn starters created powerful offensive momentum once again, using a quick pace to keep Rice on its feet. Junior outside hitter Logan Eggleston, fresh off last week’s double-double, and Asjia O’Neal, redshirt sophomore middle blocker, both notched two aces in the first set, giving Texas a strong offensive advantage.

Texas started out with a sprint yet slowed to a jog in the second set. Rice opened the second set with a 7-2 run crafted by Longhorn errors and defensive miscues. Things appeared bleak — Rice found holes in the defense, and Texas lost its defensive footing and was consistently at least five points behind.

The Longhorns had only given up nine sets in their entire season before they ran out of gas. Trying different lineups and rotations didn’t seem to work, and Texas took a brutal 25-16 loss in the second set to tie the match at one.

Texas had to rebound in the third set. Kills from Eggleston, O’Neal, and freshman outside hitter Melanie Parra opened things up and kept the score even early on. A Rice attack error finally gave them back the lead, one that was then widened by an Eggleston kill.

Kills from Eggleston and Parra made it a 24-23 game in Rice’s favor. The Owls needed one more kill. They got it.

It marked just the fourth time all season the Longhorns lost two sets in a match. In set four, they had to right their wrongs. This time, Texas found the formula behind the service line.

Junior setter Jhenna Gabriel scored two straight service aces to put the Horns up 12-7. Rice’s hopes to pack things up early were slowly dissipating as Texas came back on a serving hot streak. Parra stepped up in a major way, scoring four kills and two aces of her own in the fourth set.

Soon, Texas found itself in a similar position they were in during the first set: a 24-14 lead after a well-crafted run. All Texas needed was a kill to tie the match at two. Eggleston got it.

With one set to go and their undefeated season on the line, the Longhorns had no choice but to kick it into high gear. Two aces from Parra gave temporary relief, but Rice was dead set on storming back and took a lead of their own. An Eggleston kill tied it. Rice retaliated, served and Eggleston went in for the attack in an attempt to tie it once more.

Out of bounds. Game, set and match, Rice.

But while the loss surely stings the Texas locker room, it has no impact on their place in April’s NCAA tournament in Omaha. Texas has a three-game road trip before coming home to prepare for Omaha, starting Friday night in Waco against division rival Baylor at 6 p.m.