No. 1 volleyball topples No. 4 Minnesota in home opener

Tori Garcia, General Sports Reporter

No. 1 Texas volleyball remained undefeated after a four-set victory over No. 4 Minnesota on Wednesday at Gregory Gym.  

Senior outside hitter Logan Eggleston discussed how the Longhorns were more concerned with what they were going to do on their side of the net versus worrying about Minnesota’s plan for the game.

“We love being in situations like that. That’s why we came to Texas to have that pressure, playing these Top 10 matchups,” Eggleston said. “We are not always worried about the other team, but how we can do our best and play our game and see how they respond.”

After winning the first two sets, the Longhorns appeared to be in a groove. However, a drop in the third set forced the Longhorns to take a step back and regroup before defeating the Gophers in the fourth set and taking the match.

Momentum ran high in Gregory Gym after an opening tip from junior opposite hitter Molly Phillips started the first set with Texas leading 1-0.  Back-to-back kills from Eggleston seemed to energize the Longhorns even more. Nursing a slight early lead, a kill from sophomore outside hitter Madisen Skinner spurred the Longhorns to three more back-to-back points, forcing Minnesota to call a timeout down 11-6 after having trouble with the return after kills.  

After the timeout, the Gophers composed themselves and gained four straight points, bringing the set closer at 13-11. After staying within close range of the Longhorns, the Gophers tied the match 18-18. However, a timely kill from Skinner was the determining factor in Texas closing the set, eventually punctuated with Eggleston’s eighth kill of the night. 

At the beginning of the second set, Minnesota took its first lead of the night until Eggleston brought the Longhorns to a 2-1 lead with another kill. A long volley along with a major defensive save from senior libero Zoe Fleck kept the Gophers at a one point deficit early in the set. Service errors from the Gophers prevented them from gaining an upper hand throughout the set. Texas struggled with some miscommunication, allowing Minnesota to tie the set at 13 apiece. An Eggleston kill brought Texas to two back-to-back points, forcing the Gophers to take a timeout down 15-13.  

A service ace from Eggleston followed by a first touch issue from Minnesota led the Gophers to take their second timeout of the set at 17-13 Texas. With senior setter Saige Kaʻahaʻaina-Torres at the service line and the Longhorns in the lead at 21-15, a kill from Skinner and a third timeout of the set called from Minnesota put the Longhorns in an excellent position to finish the set. Eggleston closed set two with a kill once more, bringing Texas to two-set advantage.  

The Gophers raced out to an early 10-6 lead in the third set, with Texas struggling with service and first touches.  

After being down 15-10, Eggleston’s kill and service ace were key factors in causing Minnesota to call a timeout with only a two point deficit, leading Texas 16-14. Two defensive saves from sophomore libero Keonilei Akana gave Texas momentum to comeback from a 20-15 deficit. However, 24-23 is the closest the Longhorns got to Minnesota, dropping the third set 25-23.  

Texas needed to make some adjustments in the fourth set, especially with eyes on Sunday’s matchup against No. 12 Stanford.

“There were a lot of little errors on our side,” Eggleston said. “Just looking at the third set, we can learn a lot about who we are as a team and how we can fight back. I think that is what we are going to take to Stanford and the rest of the season: just knowing that when we are tested, we have that fight in us.”  

The Longhorns relied on Eggleston at the beginning of the fourth set, with the outside hitter recording three kills in the first five points.  With four back-to-back points, Texas led 18-14. A service error from the Gophers at 22-20 put the Longhorns in a great position to close out the match. Unsurprisingly, Eggleston provided the final nail in the coffin, finishing off the set and the match with a tip kill.  

With the win, the Longhorns improved to 3–0 after two wins over No. 8 Ohio State last weekend. The Longhorns got a taste of the intense home atmosphere in Gregory Gym before they head to California on Sunday, with hopes of remaining undefeated. 

“I couldn’t hear myself think,” Fleck said. “It was nice to have the fans on our side, and playing such a good team like Minnesota so early in the season is such a good test of failure recovery.”