Texas volleyball bounces back after unexpected home loss in time for NCAA championship run

Maya Martinez

In a year full of unprecedented external circumstances for the Texas volleyball team, the one constant was winning. Until it wasn’t.

On March 23, the undefeated Longhorns allowed the unthinkable to happen on their home court: a devastating loss to a 13–4 Rice squad that managed to get the better of the heavily favored Texas team in three sets.

The last time Texas gave up a regular season defeat was Nov. 2019 against conference rival Baylor in Waco. The last regular season home defeat? Sept. 2018 against Stanford, who would go on to win the national title.

“I think it left a little bit of a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I think every once in a while, it feels good to be real and feel pain and they did that. I think our attention to detail has been stronger.”

Elliott’s squad has since brushed off the defeat and focused on their main goal — to win a National Championship in Omaha, Nebraska later this month. On Sunday, the Longhorns secured the No. 4 overall seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Junior outside hitter Logan Eggleston recorded 46 kills in the three games after the shocking loss, propelling the Longhorns to a 23–1 record. The upset woke Texas up as a team and forced them to realize they could lose to anybody, Eggleston said.

“(The Rice loss) has definitely been motivation,” Eggleston said. “I think it was kind of the right time. It really opened our eyes and kind of prepared us, and helped us start getting ready for the tournament.”

Eggleston has been crucial to the team’s impact on the community and the game itself, from her involvement on “The Eyes of Texas” History Committee to earning multiple Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors this season.

“I’m just super thankful to be in an environment where I’m able to speak up about what I believe in and be a part of groups who are able to have those difficult conversations and kind of create change,” Eggleston said.

If Texas wants to be a championship team, the players have to combine forces and not put too much pressure on Eggleston, Elliott said.

“The biggest thing that I need to do with Logan (Eggleston) is to make sure that we don’t put too much on her plate, because she obviously carries a big load,” Elliott said. “We don’t have to have one or two people carrying us every single night, but I like the balance, and we’re working hard to kind of continue to get our middles and right sides involved.”

It’s been more than a year since the Longhorns have been in this setting — a national tournament with everything on the line. The team’s narrow 3-2 loss to Louisville in the Regional round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament is still fresh in their minds.

In one of the most difficult seasons of these athletes’ careers, the ultimate cherry on top would be lighting the tower on an Austin night.

“It would mean everything, especially this year with all the sacrifices I’ve had to make,” Eggleston said. “It would just mean that all of the work and all the time and the blood sweat and tears that we put in have really paid off.”

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 6 issue of The Daily Texan.