‘We’re winning next year’: Texas volleyball more driven than ever following national championship defeat

Maya Martinez

A 3-1 loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament on Saturday night was the tragic end to an extraordinary season for Texas, but the Longhorns handled the defeat with the same grace as they did the several years’ worth of adversity they faced in a single 29-game season.

After compiling a perfect 14–0 record in the fall portion of their season, Texas, as well as the rest of Division I volleyball, was forced to take an extended three-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic before resuming the regular season in late February. Limited and inconsistent practices during the hiatus from organized competition threatened to derail the hard work the Longhorns had already put in, head coach Jerritt Elliott said.

“I think our first practice was 40 minutes, and then it was 45 minutes, and then back down to 30 minutes,” Elliott said in a press conference on April 23. “We had to kind of work our way up to get ourselves in a position where we’re healthy enough so we didn’t have any injuries with these amazing athletes.”

Persevering through a global pandemic to obtain the best possible results on the court is hard enough, but this year’s Texas squad also decided to fully dedicate itself to the fight for racial equality and social justice. The Longhorns donned shirts with “Black Lives Matter” across their chests during warmups and postgame interviews throughout the season and even came together to publish a team video on Sept. 10 acknowledging and calling for help to end systemic racism.

Through their work as advocates for racial equality and their positive demeanor on the court, the Texas volleyball team is providing an example for the entire country, Elliott said.

“I think they are role models, and this country has a lot of problems right now,” Elliott said following the championship game. “I told them one of my favorite quotes is one of my last words from my mom: ‘Good people love people.’ And that’s what I feel this group is.”

Logan Eggleston, a junior outside hitter and Second Team All-American, became the face of the team through her contributions off the court as a member of The Eyes of Texas History Committee and her excellent performance in the postseason. Eggleston said she had one of the toughest volleyball seasons she’s gone through, but she learned more about herself and the game in the process than she ever could have otherwise.

“It’s been nine months that we’ve been just grinding,” Eggleston said after the April 24 loss. “It’s been draining, but it’s been fulfilling. Every single day I feel so tired at the end of the day, but I also feel like I’ve grown so much.”

Despite just wrapping up their most grueling year in recent memory, the team will have less time to rest and recover due to the three-month gap in their season. At the time when the Longhorns deserve the maximum amount of rest, they will receive a fraction of it.

That’s perfectly fine with Eggleston, however. Mere minutes after the loss to Kentucky, the senior spoke about her desire to get back to work.

“I want to practice again right now, there’s so much unfinished business I feel like, and there’s just so many ways that we can keep improving,” Eggleston said.

While Eggleston and her teammates are proud of what they accomplished during the most unusual season of their lives, they know they have unfinished business once they get back after it in a few months.

“We’re winning (it all) next year. That’s how we’re all feeling,” Eggleston said. “I think we do have, again, so much to be proud of, but we’re coming back stronger next year.”

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 27 issue of The Daily Texan.