No. 1 volleyball sweeps Georgia, advances to Sweet 16

Tori Garcia, General Sports Reporter

After a first-round win for top-seeded Texas volleyball and an upset from Georgia over No. 8-seed Towson on Thursday, the Longhorns faced and swept the Bulldogs in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Gregory Gym.

The Longhorns now have a 7–0 all time record against Georgia, with all the games taking place in Austin. Out of the seven games, three have been postseason matchups dating back to 1986 and 1992.  

With Friday’s win, the Longhorns clinched a Sweet 16 berth for the 17th straight season. Senior outside hitter Logan Eggleston said she feels it’s their duty as players to maintain the legacy of the Texas volleyball program.

“We came into this program to do great things,” Eggleston said. “So it’s really cool to continue on that tradition and to get there again. It’s definitely always a challenge, but it’s really exciting to get to the Sweet 16 again.”

The game was not defined by a high number of kills — Eggleston and sophomore outside hitter Madisen Skinner led the Longhorns with only nine kills each. However, Texas did swing 37 kills compared to the Bulldogs’ 28.

Senior setter Saige Kaʻahaʻaina-Torres said playing teams the Longhorns’ don’t typically match up against in the regular season is great preparation for games that will arise further into the tournament. 

“They challenged us in a lot of ways,” Kaʻahaʻaina-Torres said. “We had to think differently with our offense, we had to kind of read another block we are not used to seeing and work around it.  Every team is an opportunity to get better for whatever team we play next, and Georgia was a great opponent to have.”

Texas and Georgia began the first set with an evenly matched battle. The Longhorns held a consistent lead over the Bulldogs until blocking began to define the fate of the set.  The Bulldogs’ six hitting errors gave the Longhorns an extra edge.  

The Gregory crowd erupted as sophomore outside hitter Melanie Parra came onto the court for the first time to serve match point. After losing that point to Georgia, redshirt senior middle blocker Kayla Caffey eventually ended the set 25-14 with a kill.  

Texas came out on fire at the start of the second set. After the Longhorns went on a scoring run that saw the Bulldogs burn both of their timeouts, the Longhorns easily claimed victory in the second set 25-16. Head coach Jerritt Elliott pinpointed the pressure Texas’ serves brought to the table that allowed the Longhorns to gain a large lead.

“If you can get teams off the net, their offense slows down and they get more predictable,” Elliott said. “With our size block and our defense behind it, it gives us opportunities to transition, and we transition extremely well. … We put a lot of pressure on them from the service area.”

Facing elimination, the Bulldogs needed to make some adjustments in the third set. A slide from redshirt senior Asjia O’Neal brought the crowd to a standing ovation. Set fakes over the net by Kaʻahaʻaina-Torres were too demanding of the Bulldogs and gave the Longhorns momentum to finish the set and take the match at 25-15.

With the win, Texas advanced to the Regionals and will compete against No. 4-seed Marquette next week, which entered the tournament following an impressive 27–3 season.

With an eye on the national championship, Elliott said he is proud of his team’s relentlessness on the court and can tell how badly the Longhorns crave the championship.

“The joy that I saw in their eyes coming to practice and their energy, that makes me really happy,” Elliott said. “How locked in they have been … it shows me that there is an enthusiasm to go get this and that they are determined to try to win one game at a time.”