AUSTIN (KXAN) — A week into the season, the Texas Longhorns volleyball team moved to No. 1 in the AVCA national rankings and have only strengthened their position as the season has progressed.
The Longhorns have been the unanimous No. 1 choice in the rankings since Sept. 26, and after going five sets Sept. 21 with Kansas in the Big 12 Conference opener, they haven’t lost a set since then in three matches.
Longhorns head coach Jerritt Elliott said the team has a big week ahead of them with Big 12 matches against Kansas State and Baylor, but the team got some much-needed time off over the weekend.
“I look at this like the halfway point of the season, and these athletes go through a lot with academics, travel and other stresses they deal with,” Elliotts said. “Based on what we’ve seen on the charts, we wanted to give them some days off and recover. They’ve earned that.”
Elliott said he works with a sports scientist to monitor the players’ work threshold, both physically and emotionally, and getting them a weekend of rest before the stretch run is important.
“This will help them get back to it,” Elliott said. “Trying to find them mental time is just as important as physical rest.”
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Undefeated at 12-0 this season, the Longhorns have done it behind a powerful attack that is, statistically, the best in the country. They lead NCAA Division I teams with a .322 hitting percentage, six percentage points higher than No. 2 Louisville. The Longhorns are second in assists per set with 13.61 and fifth in kills per set with 14.32.
Since they’ve swept teams in eight of their 12 matches, the Longhorns have also played significantly fewer sets than everyone else in the country. They’ve played just 41 sets this season with Yale playing the second-lest at 49. Elliott wants to make sure the team is well-rested, especially with a “dangerous” Kansas State team at home Wednesday and No. 18 Baylor on the road Saturday.
“Kansas State has played some really good matches, and typically when we play them it goes five,” Elliott said. “They’ve got a lot better talent this year, so that will be a fun match for sure. At Baylor is going to be a great game. There’s going to be a huge crowd there for us to deal with.”
Logan Eggleston, the two-time reigning Big 12 Conference player of the year, leads the team with 169 kills and 18 aces — and the Longhorns are loaded with other weapons around her. Madisen Skinner has 127 kills and Asjia O’Neal has 76 kills with a .441 hitting percentage. O’Neal, a middle blocker, is fifth in the country in hitting percentage and also has 38 blocks on the year.
With all the talent at her disposal, senior setter Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres has racked up 442 assists so far this year. Nationally, she’s ranked third with 11.36 assists per set.
Texas takes on the Wildcats at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Gregory Gym.