No. 1 volleyball clinches Big 12 championship title with 3-1 defeat of No. 15 Baylor on senior night

Tori Garcia, Sports reporter

After demonstrating dominance over No. 15 Baylor earlier in the season on Oct. 15 with a 3-1 matchup win, No. 1 Texas volleyball proved too much for the Bears once more with a 3-1 victory in Gregory Gym on Saturday.

With the win, the Longhorns claimed the Big 12 championship title for the sixth straight season.

The final points to close the match resulted in bittersweet emotions from both the fans and players knowing that Saturday was senior night.  

Five seniors were recognized after the game with a ceremony, including redshirt senior setter Jenna Ewert, senior setter Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres, senior libero Zoe Fleck, redshirt senior middle blocker Kayla Caffey and senior outside hitter Logan Eggleston.

“It was definitely emotional at the end,” Eggleston said. “Just getting to sit down and kind of hear what all the other seniors have done throughout their career — it’s really awesome just getting to spend this season with them.”

Eggleston has been the backbone of this team for the past few years. Out of the 73 games she has played at home, her Longhorns have won 69 of them. Head coach Jerritt Elliott could not pinpoint only one quality the Texas volleyball program will miss about Eggleston.

“It’s not one thing; it’s everything,” Elliott said. “The person she is, her work ethic and daily drive to be great, the teammate she is, and the culture she has created here.”

In the Oct. 15 matchup against the Bears, Eggleston led the Longhorns with 20 kills on the night. On Saturday, sophomore outside hitter Madisen Skinner led the Longhorns with 16. Junior opposite hitter Molly Phillips knew that preparation for this game was critical in order to come out on top.

“We knew that their speed was something that’s really big for them,” Phillips said. “We just really wanted to work on getting good touches on the block, being good in the seam, being aggressive at the service line and having a good first touch.”

Service errors and return troubles from both sides of the court were costly at the start of the first set, keeping both teams neck and neck. However, a tip from Eggleston and a perfect slide set by Ka’aha’aina-Torres for Phillips were turning points that gave the Longhorns an edge over the Bears to take the set 25-19.

Service errors were costly for the Bears, which kept Texas close in the second set, but the Longhorns failed to take hold of the set, overpowered by the Bears’ attacks. Texas dropped the second set 19-25, and Elliott was critical of the way the Longhorns lost a hold of the set. 

“We just didn’t play clean,” Elliott said. “We didn’t slide out well … and we struggled on every asset of the game. We didn’t serve well, we didn’t pass well, we made a lot of hitting errors and we just couldn’t get out of our own way. When you’re not playing clean, games get really tight.”

Long volleys and out-of-system play defined the third set. Although the Bears put up a fight with critical blocks to tie the set at 23 apiece, Texas eventually proved en route for Baylor at 25-23 with Skinner at the service line and an out-of-bound kill from the Bears.  

Skinner came out swinging in the fourth set and totaled nine kills, but Baylor’s defense kept the team close. A slide set by Ka’aha’aina-Torres to O’Neal gave the Longhorns a great deal of momentum that ultimately allowed them to take the set 25-23. 

With Thanksgiving break right around the corner, the Longhorns will use this time to relax and prepare for the NCAA Tournament.  

“Every single day we get into practice, it’s all about preparing for what comes next,” Eggleston said. “It’s going to be really good to get into the gym but also have some downtime with no classes, so (I’m) definitely going to be utilizing that and getting some rest.”

With one more game left in the regular season, the Longhorns will prepare for their second game against West Virginia on Wednesday in Morgantown, West Virginia.