Meet the 2021 Texas Volleyball team: Familiar faces, championship aspirations

Hannah Williford

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the August 23 flipbook. 

No. 1 Texas volleyball hosts its first official game of the season this Friday and the team is returning every one of its players in the fall.

Here are six key players to watch out for in their opening match:

Logan Eggleston

Eggleston became a dominant force on the court during her college career, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. The team captain earned Big 12 Conference Player of the Year during the 2020-21 season, as well as becoming an AVCA First Team All-American. She started every match of her junior season, and was ranked 10th in the NCAA for kills per set, averaging 4.63. 

Eggleston’s achievements, however, don’t stop on the court. As well as being captain of her own team, Eggleston became the Big 12 Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year in June with a 3.57 GPA. However, she does not seem to be resting on her laurels after Texas lost in the national championship this spring.

“It leaves that bad taste in your mouth,” Eggleston said after the team’s loss to Kentucky. “We’re coming back stronger next year.”

Brionne Butler

Butler has turned heads in the Texas volleyball program since her freshman season in 2018, when she was selected for the All-Big 12 First Team and became an All-American honorable mention. Despite a rocky start to her sophomore year due to an injury taking her out of the first eight matches, Butler returned with a vengeance last season. The middle blocker ranked first in the nation with total blocks (147) and 11th at blocks per set (1.48), leading her to first team All-American honors.

Skylar Fields

With only two seasons under her belt, Fields shows a bright future for Texas volleyball. The junior, who plays opposite hitter, was an honorable mention All-American last season and earned First Team All-Big 12 honors. In their semi-final game against Wisconsin last spring, Fields, a biology major, was one of four players who broke double digits with 18 kills.

“We just went out there and handled our business,” Fields said after the win. 

Melanie Parra

A new addition to UT’s team this spring, Parra hasn’t had much of a chance to make a name for herself as a Longhorn after her arrival to the program was delayed by COVID-19. However, the freshman’s career as part of the Mexican national team, which won the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation championship, gained her international attention at just 16 years old. After joining the team this spring, Parra had 76 kills in the nine matches. The newly-minted Longhorn will be cheered on by fans from her hometown of Culiacán, Mexico, as well as the Texas faithful.

Jhenna Gabriel

Gabriel is like glue for Texas volleyball. The junior from Honolulu, Hawaii is ranked 9th in the nation and first in the Big 12 for assists per set (11.32) and 1,155 sets in total throughout the season, earning her a spot along with many of her teammates on the All-Big 12 first team. The setter started every match and set of the 2020-21 season, and helped the team to its third-ranked hitting percentage in the nation. Gabriel graduated with a degree in public relations in three years this summer, and she will earn her master’s degree at UT in sports management.

Asjia O’Neal

O’Neal is another budding star for Longhorn volleyball. The redshirt sophomore middle blocker, gained First Team All-Big 12 last season and had plenty of breakthrough moments during the NCAA tournament this spring, ending three games with over 10 kills. O’Neal, the daughter of former NBA star Jermaine O’Neal, is ranked 20th in the nation for hitting percentage.

  • Middle blocker Molly Phillips will also be returning for her third season this fall and made Second Team All-Big 12 last season after playing in all 29 matches. 
  • Libero Reilly Heinrich, a local from Georgetown, Texas, will return for her second season after playing in 11 games in 2020-21. 
  • Offensive hitter Madison Williams will return after being injured last season and only being able to play in two matches. 
  • Sydney Peterson, who earned Academic First Team All-Big 12 honors last season, will return again after playing in all 29 matches last season. 
  • Nalani Iosia, who was selected for the Big 12-All Rookie Team and played in every match last season, will also be back for her second year. 
  • Setter Naomi Cabello played in the second half of the 2020-21 season and will also return.