Texas rolls on.
All season we’ve talked about the NCAA field being Texas and the peloton. Nothing has changed as the Longhorns improved to 26-1 by ousting Ohio State in the regional final in Austin.
The top-ranked, top-seeded Longhorns defeated the Buckeyes 25-18, 21-25, 25-13, 25-21 to advance to the NCAA national semifinals. The Longhorns will play San Diego, which knocked off Stanford in the last match Saturday.
“For me, this is my 22nd year and I was a little emotional driving in today, thinking about how I built this and seeing the (Gregory) Gym and when we had 1,200 people, and all the people who came before,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said.
Indeed, Texas won this time before a record crowd of 5,344.
“Most importantly, this group has been through a lot. We went through Black Lives Matter, we’ve been through COVID, we’ve been through a lot of things, and they’ve stuck by each other,” Elliott continued. “They’ve stuck by the university and made themselves proud and done everything the right way. I was literally crying in my car today not wanting this thing to end because I know what means to them.”
Texas hit .258 and got 20 kills from Logan Eggleston. She had five errors in 44 attacks, hit .341, and had an assist, two aces, nine digs and three blocks.
“There were a lot of ups and downs in that game and Ohio State’s a great team,” said Eggleston, the VolleyballMag.com national player of the year in 2021 and a strong favorite to be so honored again. “It’s great to lean on your teammates at the end and then have all the emotions.”
Madisen Skinner had 13 kills, an assist, two digs and a block. Molly Phillips had five kills and six blocks. Asjia O’Neal had seven kills, an ace, eight blocks and two digs and Kayla Caffey had three kills and four blocks. Bella Bergmark played two sets and had two kills in four errorless tries and four blocks, one solo.
Zoe Fleck had 18 digs, two assists and two aces, and Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres had a kill in two errorless attempts, 40 assists, four blocks and three digs.
Texas, which held a 16-11 blocks advantage — including eight blocks in the third set — is back in the national semifinals for the 14th time and 10th time in 15 seasons. Texas won the 2012 NCAA title.
“The match was a complete battle,” Elliott said. “I thought we played extremely well in games one and three … there was no panic and a lot of confidence in each other.”
Ohio State (22-10) hit .137. The Buckeyes got 14 kills from Emily Londot, who had four blocks, and 10 kills from Gabby Gonzales, who had eight digs. Rylee Rader had six kills and eight blocks, one solo. Mac Podraza had a kill but two errors in six tries, 36 assists, three blocks and 10 digs. Kylie Murr had 12 digs and an assist.
“It is incredibly hard to beat a team three times during a season. Ohio State’s an amazing team,” Eggleston said. “They have battled so hard this entire season. And they have definitely changed since the first time we played them. They are just a more put together team, I think their defenses have improved, they are serving us improve, every aspect has gotten a lot better. And they definitely scouted us really well. And so they challenged us to do different things.”
“I will say this, I have known Jen Flynn (Oldenburg, the Ohio State coach) for a long time and she and her staff do it right,” Elliott said. “They do. They are about the kids and she is building something really special there. I know how hard it is, but congratulations to them for battling in a really tough environment. They had some guts.”
Texas beat Ohio State in Columbus in back-to-back matches to open the regular season.
“So super proud to be back in the final four,” Elliott said. “It is super hard, I know our program has been accustomed to doing that, but this group has put a whole lot of hard work into it. I am just so happy that we get to be together again for another day.”
Because the first match between Louisville and Oregon went way longer than the 2-hour time slot the NCAA and ESPN allotted on ESPNU, the match started on ESPN News and ESPN+ only. The Louisville-Oregon match ended at 6:42 p.m. Eastern and it was already 14-10 Texas in the second set when the match moved to ESPNU.