No. 1 Texas Volleyball kicks season off with sweep of San Diego

Hannah Williford, Sports Reporter

After a runner-up finish in the 2020 NCAA Tournament and a highly anticipated start to the season, the Texas volleyball team had no problem beating San Diego in a three-set sweep to open its 2021 slate in an almost full Gregory Gym.

The No. 20 Torero’s kept pace with the No. 1 Longhorns for the first half of the first set, and then Texas seemed to find its rhythm. Middle blocker Molly Phillips set the tone with four kills in the first set ending 25-19, and the rest of the team soon followed suit.

“I think there’s a high level of concentration when teams come in and play us, that’s the way they play,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said postgame.  “We get everybody’s best shot.”

The Longhorns kept a safe distance in the remaining two matches and left San Diego far behind by the end of the 3rd set, winning  25-15. The crowd, which turned out in record numbers, kept the players motivated with endless chants of “we are Texas” and celebrated each kill as if it was the national championship all over again. Opposite hitter Skylar Fields said the fans added a special element to the game.

“It felt like we were back home,” Fields said postgame. “They just rallied behind us.”

Despite Texas pulling ahead early in the match, fans kept their energy from the time the team entered the court to warm up until the game-ending block by Naomi Cabello and Brionne Butler.

Naomi Cabello (left) and Brionne Butler (right) go up for a block in Texas’ three-set sweep of San Diego Friday night. Jack Myer/ The Daily Texan

“It was so fun to be back in Gregory, just to see our girls be able to experience that again,” Elliott said. “Just great energy in the gym tonight.”

Maybe thanks to the crowd, or to a rigorous off season, Fields had 12 kills during the match. Team captain Logan Eggleston followed close behind her with 10 kills of her own. Setter Jhenna Gabriel, who posted 24 assists, helped set Fields up.

“She’s our quarterback right, so she’s the one who follows through with the game plan that we have,” Elliott said, “I thought she did a really nice job and put up some good hittable balls today. I was pretty pleased.”

As the Longhorns head into their game this Sunday against UTSA, Elliott said they will continue to focus on their side of the ball.

“We had some opportunities blocking-wise that kind of slipped through our hands a few times so we’ll keep working on that,” Elliott said, “but we’re patient, we’ve got a really good team and they’ve been focused on preseason and I’m proud of them.”