No. 1 Texas volleyball sweeps West Virginia, resets after loss earlier this week

Katie Borchetta, Sports Reporter

After a devastating loss to Iowa State on Wednesday, No. 1 Texas volleyball retaliated with a 3-0 sweep of West Virginia Saturday night at Gregory Gym. 

After suffering its first loss of the season to the Cyclones, Texas took the defeat as a mental reset in order to triumph against the Mountaineers.

“(We) just kinda reset,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I think (the players) did that on their own, so it was just getting back to training. Sometimes a loss can be healthy.”

Texas had its way in defense, with multiple Longhorns contributing numerous blocks that stifled the Mountaineers’ attack. Redshirt senior Kayla Caffey finished with seven blocks, and Asjia O’Neal, redshirt senior middle blocker, followed with five. Senior outside hitter Logan Eggleston contributed four blocks of her own.

Overall, Texas finished with a .380 hitting percentage, notably stronger than its already impressive .330 season average. Heading into Saturday, Texas led the country with a .327 hitting percentage and O’Neal was ranked second in the nation with her .480 hitting percentage.

While West Virginia’s 0-8 conference record does not hold a candle to Texas’ 7-1 record, the Mountaineers rallied well with the Longhorns and played competitive points overall despite the sweep.

The match started out shaky from both teams with service errors and multiple balls hit out of bounds. The Longhorns and the Mountaineers held close on the scoreboard because Texas struggled to get a solid first hit and was often uncontrolled. Specifically, senior setter Sage Ka’aha’aina-Torres and senior libero Zoe Fleck couldn’t get a hit for a majority of the set. After a timeout, Texas’ mentality was rejuvenated and the Longhorns gained a lead on West Virginia 20-14. West Virginia’s defense did well to dig and return balls after strong attacks from the Longhorns. The set ended 25-17 with an ace from sophomore outside hitter Melanie Parra.

Texas played a different game in the second set. The Longhorns got over some of the errors they had in the first set and played more as a team. Blocking, specifically by Eggleston and O’Neal, was much stronger to the point where Texas gained a sizable lead on the Mountaineers. Despite the deficit, West Virginia came back near the end of the set to almost give Texas a scare. Before the Mountaineers could catch up though, Texas took the second set 25-16 after a surprise second-hit kill from Ka’aha’aina-Torres that was disguised as a set.

Texas claimed the third and final set 25-14, and the set played out similarly to the second. The Longhorns were up a majority of the set and even nursed a 21-9 lead at one point. At that point, the athletes on the court were mostly non-starters, excluding Skinner and O’Neal. West Virginia managed a slight comeback after multiple attacks that Texas’ blockers touched before the ball went out of bounds. However, the Mountaineers’ play was a little slopier, and Texas took the set for its tenth sweep of the season after a kill from Parra.

Besides the game itself, Gregory Gym was flooded with pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with the packed crowd cheering them on, Texas’ players believed that to be important to the win. Over the last 13 seasons, Texas has a 185-13 record at home.

“They’re always really loud,” O’Neal said. “It definitely helped me to just put a better spirit with the team because when we’re on the road, we still play well, but it’s nice to have people rallying behind you.” O’Neal said.

The Longhorns will next take on Texas Tech next Wednesday at home after sweeping the Red Raiders in Lubbock on Oct. 2.