OMAHA, Nebraska — Logan Eggleston started out slowly Thursday.

But in the end, she was like a locomotive leading the Texas train that put the Longhorns in Saturday’s NCAA volleyball national-championship match with a  26-28, 25-16, 25-18, 25-20 victory over San Diego.

Texas (27-1) won its 14th in a row as the Big 12 champions advanced to the last match of the season for the ninth time. Texas won it all in 2012.

West Coast Conference-champion San Diego (31-2), which had won 28 in row, ended the best season in program history.

ACC co-champions Louisville and Pittsburgh played in the second semifinal.

“What a battle. So much respect for San Diego,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “So well-disciplined in the way they play. Jen (Petrie)and her staff did a phenomenal job with that team. There was no easy out for us.

“We were really challenged from a coaching staff of finding some good offensive weapons to try to get past it but also trying to get the ball to the floor.”

Madisen Skinner led Texas with 17 kills and hit .394 to go with an assist, four digs and three blocks. Eggleston, who at one point in the first set had more errors than kills, finished with 16 kills, five in the fourth set. She hit .196 and had one spectacular fourth-set assist, an ace, nine digs and five blocks. Molly Phillips had 14 kills, hit .265, and had two digs and a block. Asjia O’Neal had five kills, hit .133, and had a dig and four blocks. 

Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres had four kills in six errorless tries, 46 assists, 11 digs and two blocks. Her team hit .248.

Texas libero Zoe Fleck had 21 digs, five assist and an ace.

“Different people stepped up tonight. I thought Logan struggled early on and had other players step up be able to do that. Like Logan, she can come back and finished real strong, gets the final kill for us,” Elliott said.

“But a complete team effort. I’m really proud of them. And being at this level, at this stage is not easy to get through. Just really happy that this team gets to stick together for another two days.”

Texas had only lost the first set previously four times this season, three times in the first nine matches of the season, and won every time.

“Obviously everyone is disappointed when you lose a set, but at the same time we knew that tonight was going to be a grind,” Ka’aha’aina-Torres said. “We knew we were going to have to fight for every single point, through every single set. And we knew we weren’t going to be able to take our foot off the gas.

“Them fighting as hard as they did the first said, second, third, fourth, they’re a great team. But it was just more from our point of view of taking control and taking initiative of that game and being, like, okay, we’re going to win this thing; how are we going to win this thing?”

San Diego’s Breana Edwards had 14 kills, hit .100, and had two blocks. Three Toreros had nine kills each, Leyla Blackwell, Grace Frohling and Katie Lukes. Blackwell had seven blocks. Gabby Blossom had a kill, 37 assists, 18 digs and a block. Her team hit .112. Annie Benbow had 11 digs and five assists.

San Diego had four aces and nine errors. Texas had three aces and 10 errors but never served lollipops.

“Their service game was very strong. It kept us on our heels,” San Diego coach Jen Petrie said. “Caused us to be off the net a lot, not being able to stay in the system we wanted to.”

San Diego’s Gabby Blossom sets with one hand as Logan Eggleston of Texas puts up the block 12-15-22 Matt Smith photo

At the media timeout of the first set, with San Diego leading 15-14, the Toreros were hitting .000 and Texas .050.

The first challenge came soon after. San Diego took an 18-15 lead on a two-handed push by Blossom that was ruled to have gone off Eggleston. Texas challenged and the call was overruled. 

Sloppy play ensued but Texas took a 21-20 lead on a block by Eggleston and Kayla Caffey of Edwards and San Diego called time.

Eggleston hit out to make it 21-21 and Edwards blew a ball through the block and the Toreros led 22-21. That led to a Texas timeout.

Eggleston got a kill, Blackwell crushed one out of the middle and it was 23-22 San Diego. But Eggleston tied it with her fourth kill against four errors.

San Diego took a 24-23 lead when O’Neal was called for being over the net and interfering with the set. However, it was tied again on Frohling’s serving error.

Eggleston served long, her third error of the set. Skinner tied it at 25 with a kill. 

Edwards made it 26-25 San Diego with a kill, but Haylee Stoner served long.

Edwards hit softly against the block for another kill and San Diego had another set point at 27-26. San Diego won the first set when a long rally ended with Frohling blocking Phillips.

For the first set, San Diego had 12 kills and eight errors in 31 attacks to hit .129 and had five service errors. Texas had 13 kills and 11 errors in 36 attacks and hit .056 to go with four serving errors.

The Longhorns broke a 12-12 tie and took a 15-13 lead into the second-set media timeout as both teams settled down offensively. By the time Texas took the largest lead by either team in the match up to that point, 17-13 on a kill by Phillips, Texas was hitting .370 for the second set and San Diego .185.

San Diego was a fantastic rally, punctuated by diving saves on both sides, capped by a block by Blackwell and Lukes on O’Neal. But then Benbow served out.

Texas took a 20-14 and San Diego used its second timeout. It didn’t help. 

At the end of the second set, San Diego had 23 kills and 16 errors in 70 swings for a .100 hitting percentage. Texas was 28-13-75, .200.

San Diego used a timeout down 8-3 in the third set. Keonilei Akana served out, making 8-4, meaning three of those San Diego points came on service errors. 

Texas kept the pressure on an ace by O’Neal put the Longhorns up 19-14, causing San Diego to use its second timeout.

The Toreros scored the next two points, but that was as close they would before Texas closed it on a 5-2 run that included three blocks.

San Diego had been there before, including being down 2-1 at Stanford in the regional final. The Toreros bolted ahead 4-0 in the fourth set and Texas called an early timeout. The Longhorns responded and took an 8-7 lead, which led to San Diego’s first timeout.

Neither team had more than a one-point lead until Eggleston’s kill that made it 15-13. San Diego used its last timeout trailing 18-15.

The closest San Diego got after that was 21-19. San Diego got to 22-20, but Texas challenged that it was touched. The call was overruled and Texas led 23-19 and never looked back.

“What an incredible season for San Diego volleyball,” Petrie said. “I could not be more proud of these girls and what they have done for our program, for the university, for the city of San Diego, for each other, for the staff, everything that they have given all season. The belief that they’ve had that we deserved to be here. We’ve earned the right to be here, and we made a statement for that.

“Kudos to Texas, who is a very, very good team, one that I think that we pushed tonight and we battled with, and it could have come out the other way on any other given night. We ran out of time to make some more adjustments, but these girls truly believed they were in there and we were in it to win it.”

Logan Eggleston sends the third ball over as her Texas teammates untangle/Matt Smith photo


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