Texas volleyball outlasts No. 6 Baylor 3-1, completing season sweep

Maya Martinez

In a season defined by overcoming the adversity created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the No. 2 Texas volleyball team found itself jumping yet another hurdle Friday night as they battled against No. 6 Baylor, ultimately winning 3-1.

Except this time, it was in an attempt to recover from the team’s devastating first loss of the season against Rice on Tuesday.

The Longhorns came into the match against their conference rival with a three-pronged goal: Holding a defensive wall, boosting their hitting percentage and putting away all the self-doubt that may have accumulated after their first loss of the season.

In the first set, Texas accomplished all three.

The Longhorns were able to keep Baylor at bay in the first set by registering six total blocks, five of which came from junior middle blocker Brionne Butler. Butler set the tone of the first set with a solo block on one of the first points for the Longhorns. Baylor managed only 18 points in the set, thanks in part to yet another multikill performance from junior outside hitter Logan Eggleston.

Gaining the 1-0 advantage, Texas made sure not to duplicate a disastrous second set, such as what happened on Tuesday. The Longhorns had no margin for error considering Baylor had Yossiana Pressley, the reigning AVCA National Player of the Year, on their side.

In fact, it was Pressley’s dominance around the net that played a significant role in keeping Texas at a deficit in the second frame. That is, until the very last moments of the set.

Sophomore opposite hitter Skylar Fields found a kill late in the match to tie the set at 24 a piece. Then, graduate libero Morgan O’Brien served a dart to notch an ace, putting Texas up 25-24. Since the Longhorns only had a one-point advantage, the teams were forced to go into extra-points with every heart in the arena racing.

After a vicious back-and-forth series, Pressley snatched the kill and allowed Baylor to take the second set 31-29.

Throughout the match, it seemed as if Texas was in a vicious cycle of playing from behind. Baylor exerted the lead for almost all of the sets before the Longhorns would inevitably storm back to tie it up; then, Baylor would effectively stop the run. This cycle, however, was broken in the waning moments of the third set.

A poor serve by Eggleston tied the third set up at 28. Then, a Baylor volley off a Pressley serve was denied by a Butler block, putting the score at 29-28, Texas.

Finally, Texas put the nail in the coffin after a clutch assist from junior setter Jhenna Gabriel was brought down by Fields, bringing the score to 30-28, Longhorns up 2-1.

All they had to do was stick to the original plan.

The Longhorns took control and kept the Bears at arm’s length despite multiple attack and service errors. Soon enough, Texas was up 23-18 in the fourth set and inches away from closing a victory. After a Pressley kill kept Baylor alive, the match found a poetic conclusion.

Needing one point to win the match, Gabriel executed a perfectly placed assist, putting the ball exactly where Butler wanted it and leading to a slam dunk of a finish.

Despite undergoing a season filled with setbacks and a surprising loss, the Longhorns secured a top-10 victory over an in-state rival to get their season back on track.

The Longhorns will close out their regular season with two matchups against TCU in Fort Worth next Thursday and Friday, both at 1 p.m.