Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Texas volleyball completes miraculous five-set comeback against Tennessee, advances to Elite Eight

Mackenzie Coleman
Texas Volleyball team celebrates in-between sets on Sept. 3, 2023.

Down 2-1 and losing late in the fourth set, the Longhorns stared down match point with their back on the wall of elimination. Texas’ NCAA Tournament run looked over. A slew of mistakes throughout the match had the Longhorns’ crown slipping as their title defense of last season’s NCAA Championship looked like it was headed to an end. 

But just before the ink could dry on their obituary, the Longhorns squeezed every bit of ‘Texas Fight’ they had left as the junior outside hitter Madisen Skinner led the charge, scoring consecutive emphatic kills to claw Texas back into the fourth set and to a victory to force a decisive fifth set.

Skinner continued her dominance, totaling six kills in the final set, and led Texas to secure its grueling comeback victory after a three hour, nine minute match to advance to the Elite Eight for the seventeenth time in the last eighteen seasons. 

Skinner set a career-high in kills with 26 on a .328 hitting percentage, along with her five total blocks, five digs, two assists and two service aces. Senior teammate Asjia O’Neal joined her in leading Texas back to victory, filling the stat sheet with 10 kills and eight total blocks. 

The young pairing of freshman Ella Swindle and sophomore Emma Halter played critical roles down the stretch as Swindle notched a double-double with 40 assists and 10 digs, along with five kills, while Halter tallied 20 digs. 

Coming into the match, Texas, led by O’Neal, ranked as the second-best team in the country in blocks per set, and the first set put their defensive dominance at the net on display. Texas used its seven blocks in the first set to take control of the set and a 9-4 towards the end to take a 1-0 lead in the match. 

Unlike its previous match against SMU, Texas’ momentum did not carry over. The Longhorns amassed seven service errors in the second set after having none in the first. Numerous service and hitting errors and net violations contributed heavily to Texas dropping both sets two and three.

“We were just sloppy, we didn’t take care of the ball at all,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We had 14 errors in (the second set) and just kind of handed them a lot of points.”

As the errors continued to pile up, Texas nearly saw its season end until Skinner, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, stepped up and took control of the match to lead Texas back from being bounced out of the tournament. Skinner discussed postgame, what raced through her mind throughout the match, and what her career night meant to her and the Texas team.

“There was so many things that we were just not taking care of on our side of the net, so just trying to pick up and play Texas volleyball,” Skinner said. “Just knowing I’m playing for my teammates and if things go south, then I did everything I could, and in the end, I just want to compete for them and do the best I can for them.”

Texas will play their next match on Saturday in the Elite Eight, taking on the winner of Arizona State and Stanford. Texas could see a potential rematch of their early season sweep loss to Stanford, this time in Palo Alto, California, the home of the Cardinals. 

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