National championship loss to Kentucky looms large before season opener

Hannah Williford

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the August 25 flipbook. 

The Texas volleyball team says they’ve discussed their loss to Kentucky in the national championship last spring every day before they head into the season this Friday.

Volleyball will start their season against San Diego on August 27 in Gregory Gymnasium. Head coach Jerritt Elliott said it will be the first opportunity for some members of the team to play in front of the Longhorn crowd. However, much of the team has already set their eyes on returning to the finals. 

Outside hitter Logan Eggleston said while last year helped prove Texas as a team could win a national championship, she recognizes that making it to the finals last year doesn’t guarantee the same outcome this season. 

Elliott reminded the team that in the past 40 years, only four teams who had made it to the finals and lost returned the next year. Instead, she intends to use the loss as motivation.

“It’s definitely left that bad taste in our mouth and it’s kind of pushing us, motivating us during the preseason,” Eggleston said. “It’s definitely gonna push us when it gets to the middle of the conference season when things are rolling on and on.”

Opposite hitter Skylar Fields, who had a strong end to her season, said she also has been using the loss as a way for the team to find the next gear in their training.

“We don’t want to feel that pain again,” Fields said. “That’s what’s driving us to go hard every day.”

Eggleston said she is also feeling more confident about dealing with COVID-19 this season after experiencing last year’s protocols and having the opportunity to be vaccinated. She said last season took a toll on the players’ mental health with online classes and a lack of social interaction, but the team grew closer.

“We really did get to know each other and kind of what works, what doesn’t work for everybody,” Eggleston said. “I think that’s going to be really good going into this season because we’re already so comfortable with each other and we kind of know how to approach each other and how to get each other going.”

Elliott said he has been attempting to draw the focus from individual roles to a team system, targeting how each player can play their part. He said because of the team’s shared goal of making their way back to the finals this year, they have been responsive.

“We’ve got a really tight team,” Elliott said. “We went through a lot last year, in many different scenarios, and I think it did bring us closer together so there’s great communication and I think that’s the key to having some success.”

For their game against San Diego, Elliott had straightforward goals: tighten up their playing and start off the season on the right foot with a win. 

“It won’t be smooth, it won’t be clean the whole time, but hopefully with time we’ll get a little better, and having a crowd behind this will help a lot, too,” Elliott said.