Texas volleyball opens Big 12 play with win over West Virginia

Hannah Williford, Sports Reporter

The No.1 Longhorns swept West Virginia in their first conference match of the season Thursday night.

While unranked, the Mountaineers were 12–1 on the season ahead of the contest. After coming from behind for a victory in the first set, Texas beat West Virginia  in a 3-0 win.

Kills by offensive hitter Logan Eggleston and Molly Phillips pulled the Longhorns from their 14-19 deficit during the first set. As the gap closed, libero Nalani Iosia served an ace that went untouched by West Virginia, and brought the Longhorns another point closer to their eventual first set 25-21 victory. Feeling the comeback, Sydney Petersen jumped off the bench for a heel click.

“I thought West Virginia came out playing on fire,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “They’re at such a high level of concentration, (but) can they sustain that for long periods of time? You just have to stay back and have a lot of confidence. … They can’t weather that storm over a long period of time.”

The Longhorns sailed through the second set. Eggleston led the charge with a service ace and junior opposite hitter Skylar Fields delivered six kills. Texas kept the lead for the entire set and finished comfortably, 21-11. In a slightly closer third set, the Longhorns still brought home a victory, scoring 25-19.

The lead allowed for Texas’ Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres, who played in just her third game for the Longhorns, to spend some time on the court. The junior transfer from the University of Utah had one dig, one block and five assists during the match.

“We’ve got great setters in our program,” Elliott said. “Saige is a little bit of a better blocker. She got some nice touches up there. … We need to give her some more time to get comfortable with the offense, but I feel her confidence.”

Fields also had a strong night on the court, coming out with 16 kills and a .593 hitting percentage. Eggleston followed with 12 kills, two blocks and nine digs that were essential in returning a series of sharp balls from West Virginia.

Before the start of the match, Gregory Gym read the Big 12 Unity Statement for the first time at a Texas volleyball game, which calls for reflection on racial injustice.

“Ever since (the protests surrounding racial injustice) last summer, our team has been doing a really good job of communicating about that and just talking about coming together,” Fields said. “Starting in the Big 12, we get to put out our statement and just let people know what we stand for.”

A Texas Athletics spokesperson said the message will play before every Big 12 game of the year.

Texas will face off against West Virginia for a second match Friday at 7 p.m. Fields said she is sure the Mountaineers will play even harder than they did Thursday.