No. 1 Texas volleyball ready to redeem Iowa State loss earlier this year

Katie Borchetta, General Sports Reporter

When the Longhorns lost their first match of the season to unranked Iowa State on Oct. 19, the then-unanimous No. 1 team in the country was knocked from its perch at the top of the AVCA Coaches Poll.

Texas has since regained its No. 1 ranking with just the lone loss on its record. On Wednesday night at Gregory Gym, the Longhorns will have their shot at revenge when the Cyclones come to Austin.

“We’ve got to get back into our rhythm and start playing, and get ourselves in a position to take care of those victories,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said on Oct. 10, responding to the loss.

Despite outnumbering the Cyclones in points, kills, blocks, assists and digs in their first matchup, the Longhorns fell short in a five-set thriller in Ames, Iowa. The Longhorns seemed to struggle with their first touches and returns, making the game more evenly matched than it initially appeared on paper.

Before the loss to the Cyclones, Texas was on its way to a possible undefeated season, which has never happened in Texas volleyball history. Texas’ last national championship-winning team in 2012 almost made it through its conference schedule unblemished until the Longhorns fell short to their last game of the season⎯ a regular season game against Iowa State.

“Only (the media talks) about undefeated,” Elliott said on Oct. 10. “We’re trying to go undefeated this week … that’s what our goal is. One week at a time.”

Since the loss, Texas has won its next three matches while only dropping one set and benefited from a conference forfeit after TCU was unable to play on Wednesday. Iowa State, in comparison, has won four of its last games since its first matchup with Texas. Altogether, Texas is 10-1 in conference and 17-1 overall, while Iowa State sits at an 8-3 conference record and 17-8 overall.

“They’re a good team,” Elliott said on Oct. 22. “They’re well coached and it’s a hard quest to play; it’s challenging. They’re one of the hardest meetings in the conference. So, when you (have) that, you got to play (hard) and give everything you have.”

Iowa State was strong on offense against Texas, hitting nearly .500 in the second set as a team and .405 in the fourth. Freshman outside hitter Maya Duckworth and senior outside hitters Eleanor Holthaus and Annie Hatch were all notable players in the first meeting, with each recording at least 10 kills. Sophomore libero Brooke Stonestreet also played a key role in the Cyclones’ success with 25 digs and two aces. Senior setter Jaden Newsome impressed with a double-double of 21 assists and 13 digs.

In addition to their preparation for Wednesday’s rematch, the Longhorns also have the home court advantage this time around in Gregory Gym, with the match set to begin at 7 p.m. Redshirt senior middle blocker Asjia O’Neal said that while she enjoys the jeers from other teams’ fans, she also likes the energy of playing at home. The home crowd may be helpful as the Longhorns hope to redeem their only loss of the season.

“It’s nice to have people rallying behind you as opposed to screaming at you and heckling,” O’Neal said on Oct. 22.