The 3 keys to success for Texas volleyball’s NCAA redemption run

Hannah Williford

Redemption was the theme of the season for Texas volleyball. 

Last spring, the Longhorns made their way to the NCAA volleyball championship against Kentucky, one game away from taking home the trophy. Texas lost in the fourth set, returning with a chip on their shoulder and a hunger to return next year. 

“It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and you never want to end the season on a loss,” captain Logan Eggleston said after their season ended. “We’re coming back stronger next year. I think there’s a lot of blood boiling and we’re ready to go.”

This fall, Texas volleyball showed just how much the loss fueled them, taking the team to a 24-1 season. The Longhorns became Big 12 champions in their final win Saturday, and were selected as the No. 2 overall seed in this year’s tournament. Now, the team’s gauntlet begins.

On Thursday, Texas will take on unranked Sacred Heart University (19-9) in its first match of the tournament. While conference matchups consist of two separate games, tournament games are single elimination. If the Longhorns are successful on Thursday, they will play again on Dec. 3 to make their way to regionals. 

Texas is just six games away from becoming national champions. Here are the key factors to Longhorn victories:

Consistent Serving 

If there is one message from head coach Jerritt Elliott this season, it was Texas’ need to improve their serves. Undeniably, it’s been a success. The Longhorns have made their way to second in the nation for aces per set, averaging 2.31. Fans can thank Melanie Parra, who is ranked fourth in the nation with .64 aces per set, for part of this success. She served three in a row in Friday’s game against Texas Tech. Logan Eggleston has also stepped up serving this season, averaging .48 aces per set. But with aggressive serving comes increased chance of error. While Texas has been overall successful with aggressive serving, a few unlucky sets with service errors could be an issue for Texas.

Skylar Fields

When Skylar Fields comes to play, opponents are in deep trouble. The junior has shown her ability to be a menace on the court this season, peaking at 26 kills in a match against Kansas and achieving a .593 hitting percentage against West Virginia. While Fields has been slightly more quiet recently, staying in the single digits for kills in the last two games and putting up just two kills in a match against Oklahoma, she still poses a threat to other teams. Either opponents will have to heavily factor in protection from Fields’ kills, or she will be dominant on the court. 

Ability to Come From Behind

It has not been uncommon this season for Texas to trail in the first match, or at least be neck and neck with their opponents. The trend isn’t surprising: Texas has been a top-ranked team all season, and opponents will always bring their best. The Longhorns have been able to recover from point deficits of seven or more within a match this season, but this could be a trickier feat as they take on higher ranked opponents. 

In tight situations, juniors Molly Phillips and Logan Eggleston could be key players to watch. Elliott has called Phillips the “glue” for the Texas team this season, and she doesn’t hesitate to remind teams of a threat from the right side as they attempt to protect from kills by Fields and Eggleston. When Texas is down, a well-placed kill from Phillips can often be the key to putting Texas on a comeback run.