No. 1 Texas tops Arizona Wildcats in thrilling four-set victory

Jordan Mitchell, Sports Reporter

The Texas volleyball team improved to 6-0 Friday night at Gregory Gymnasium in a gritty 3-1 victory over Arizona.

Neither the No. 1 Longhorns nor the Wildcats trailed by more than 6 points during the duration of the match, as service and attack errors plagued both teams and their abilities to gain a lead and keep it.

Redshirt junior Asjia O’Neal was the offensive force the Longhorns needed to persevere through the game. While the Longhorns and the Wildcats posted underwhelming hit percentages of .193 and .178, respectively, the middle blocker recorded nine kills, a hit percentage of .429 and a couple of clutch defensive blocks.

Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott attributed the team’s win to the performances of O’Neal and her teammate, junior middle blocker Molly Phillips.

“Their effort allowed us to pull this match away,” Elliott said.

O’Neal and Phillips weren’t the only stars of the match. Sophomore Melanie Parra recorded two back-to-back service aces to improve the Longhorn’s score by 3 points early in the fourth set, while senior Brionne Butler recorded five crucial blocks, four being in a close third set.

The team gained a lot of confidence through the home crowd’s energy, O’Neal said. Through the ups and downs, the enthusiasm radiating through Gregory Gym never seemed to dull. Longhorns fans young and old gathered in the bleachers, screaming frantically at every rally, and bursting into excitement with every kill.

“The crowd always does a really good job here,” O’Neal said. “They have our back, so I was allowed to be really into it.”

While this was certainly not the dominant performance that fans typically see from the team, the Longhorns  made impressive plays during a seemingly lackluster match and remained levelheaded when kept on their toes.

“We became less flustered, rather than allowing ourselves to become really reactive. We were just trying to figure out what (Arizona) was trying to do,” O’Neal said. “Emotionally, it seemed to just go on and on, but we pushed through.

The Longhorns face a quick turnaround before playing Notre Dame at home Sunday. While no head coach feels good coming off a game riddled by simple mistakes and play that fails to live up to expectations, Elliott said he feels some rest will help rejuvenate his team.

“We’re gonna get the rest. I think they need to get the job done preparing mentally, and maybe see a little bit of film,” Elliott said. “We will refocus and get back, define who we are, and hopefully play a bit better Sunday.”