No. 1 volleyball takes down San Diego, advances to national championship

Katie Borchetta, General Sports Reporter

Top-seeded Texas volleyball held its own in the NCAA tournament national semifinal against No. 2 seed San Diego on Thursday, securing a spot in the national championship game with a 3-1 win in Omaha, Nebraska.

“What a battle,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Complete team effort. I’m really proud of them. Being at this level, at this stage, is not easy to get through, and I’m just really happy that this team gets to stick together for another two days.”

The high-stakes matchup saw plenty of action at the net between heavy attacks and strong blocking. Extended rallies throughout the match built up the game’s tension. In the first set, both teams committed many errors, combining for 19 attack errors.

Multiple Longhorns helped solidify the win. Sophomore outside hitter Madisen Skinner led the team with 17 kills and senior outside hitter Logan Eggleston was right behind with 16. Senior libero Zoe Fleck finished with 21 digs in the matchup.

Junior opposite hitter Molly Phillips added 14 kills herself, tying her highest single-game total this season. In between sets, Elliott told ESPN about Phillip’s impressive and essential play in the match.

“Molly is slicing and dicing like she always does,” Elliott said. “It’s huge for us.”

With a wide variety of Texas’ roster showcasing its talent and depth in the match, Skinner said she feels comforted knowing the team can rely on any of its players to carry the team to victory.

We have so many weapons,” Skinner said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of us knowing that someone can step up at any given moment, knowing that our teammates are going to step in and make a game-changing play if we need them.”

However, San Diego featured several players that gave the Longhorns a scare on Thursday. Graduate outside hitter Breana Edwards led the Toreros with 14 kills. San Diego had an effective block, finishing with nine as a team, and recovered well in defense from Texas’ large swings over the net.

Both teams initially appeared to let their nerves get the best of them in the first set, resulting in nine combined service errors in the opening frame. Skinner led the team with five kills and a .833 hitting percentage.

From the beginning, San Diego found itself in good spots defensively to contrast Texas’ offense. However, the two sides battled and neither separated themselves by more than two points the entire set. The Toreros’ persistence led them to take the first set 28-26 after their fourth set point.

Texas came out much cleaner in the second set. Phillips came out swinging with consistent and effective kills, and along with help from Skinner and Eggleston, Texas racked up points. In contrast to the first set, Texas built a lead and took the set 25-16.

“I think that everyone can say the first set was not our perfect set,” Phillips said. “That’s an amazing team, and to be able to turn around and just fall back on our training, I think, is an even better feeling than going out and sweeping 3-0.”

Since Texas found more of its momentum in the second set, the Longhorns built another strong lead on San Diego in the third set. Bella Bergmark, redshirt junior middle blocker, came in off the bench and helped the team with her blocking, teaming up with Eggleston on a final block to take the set 25-18.

The Longhorns battled in the fourth set, gaining a slight lead toward the end. Up 24-20, the Longhorns needed only one set point to send the Toreros home, with Eggleston ending the match with a kill to send the Longhorns onto the title game.

Texas will face Louisville on Saturday for its ninth appearance in the national championship.

“I’ve been really impressed with their resilience in the way that they want to fight,” Elliott said. “They really want to earn this thing and now they’ve got that chance, and we’re gonna go for it.”