No. 1 Texas volleyball survives upset scare, beats Notre Dame 3-1 in dramatic fourth set

Hannah Williford

Unranked Notre Dame became one of the only three teams this season to win a set against No. 1 Texas. But Texas pulled out a 29-27 victory in the fourth set to win Sunday’s match in Gregory Gymnasium.

For most teams, a game feels close when it makes its way to the fifth set. But when the Longhorns, up 2-1, took Notre Dame to 27-27 in the fourth set, it felt like the game was on the line. 

Notre Dame has had a rocky start to their season, with three wins and four losses, but the Fighting Irish won the second set before putting Texas in for a second scare, tying 25-25 and then 27-27 in the fourth set.

To the joy of a deafening Texas crowd, the Longhorns finally clenched the victory with a service ace by captain Logan Eggleston, continuing their undefeated season.

While Texas has sometimes been slow to start, today the team came onto the court strong. Melanie Parra served the ball to begin the first set and sent Notre Dame players on a desperate, but successful, attempt to return the ball. But the success was momentary for Notre Dame, as Brionne Butler sent the ball sailing over the net for a kill. In the rhythm, Parra had a service ace, and then another. 

“I thought we were playing some elite volleyball for the first set and a half,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. 

The beginning established the tone: Notre Dame did not take the lead for the entirety of the set, and Butler stayed aggressive at the net, with six kills and two blocks. Texas ended the set comfortably 25-16. 

“She has a little different blocking schemes and systems to what they run,” Elliot said. “They’re committed to their system and so you get to the center of the court free or one-on-one a lot of the time.”

But the Fighting Irish came out swinging late in the second set after a series of kills and a service ace, putting Texas down 19-20 for the first lead change of the match. The lead seemed to shake the Longhorns, and Texas was only able to put one more point on the board before Notre Dame took the set with two kills and two service aces. 

The Longhorns continued to struggle in the beginning third set, and struggled protecting their side of the court from kills.

“Our transition game struggled a bit more,” Elliott said. “We had four reception errors today so that’s something obviously we’ll pay some attention to.”

By the end of the third set, Texas found momentum again. Skylar Fields delivered the final kill of the set to end it 25-17. 

The fourth set became a race to the finish as Texas and Notre Dame stayed neck and neck until the match point of the game when Eggleston sealed the win.

Libero Nalani Iosia was a key player for the Longhorns throughout the match with 15 digs. Setter Jhenna Gabriel also had eight digs and 45 assists by the end of the match. Fields notched 18 kills and Eggleston tallied 15 by the end of the game. 

Elliott said the team will have a rest day tomorrow and is nearing the end of an exhausting part of the season. Since last Sunday, Texas has played four matches. 

“We go all out every day, we put in a lot physically, emotionally, mentally,” Fields said. “You are going to be tired at the end of the day, whether we have multiple days off or just one.”