AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the deafening Gregory Gym crowd behind them, the No. 1 Texas Longhorns dispatched No. 16 Marquette 3-1 in the regional semifinals of the NCAA volleyball tournament Thursday.
Texas picked up the first two sets with relative ease, but the Golden Eagles took advantage of Texas service errors with a gritty performance from the service line and their attack to capture the third set. The Longhorns were just too much offensively for the Golden Eagles to handle, however, and Asjia O’Neal ended the match with one mighty swing.
Set scores were 25-14, 25-13, 19-25 and 25-17.
“I loved the way we came out, but in game three we lost a little concentration,” Longhorns head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “To be pushed was really good though, we needed that.”
With Marquette closing in on Texas in the fourth, trailing 11-7, Bella Bergmark came up clutch with a pair of kills to help keep the Longhorns in front. After the Golden Eagles smacked a pair of kills to cut the lead to 11-9, Bergmark smacked a kill to extend the lead to 12-9, and then came up with another one to make it 14-10 and the serve went back to Texas.
Elliott said he told the team the bench players were going to play a key part in the match, and he was not only happy with Bergmark’s big plays, but also the confidence of setter Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres to get Bergmark the opportunities.
“At one point, they were leaving her alone a little bit, so we went to her,” Elliott said of Bergmark’s play in the fourth set. “She did a phenomenal job.”
In the third set, Texas had a combined seven errors between serving and receiving to Marquette’s one, and Elliott said the errors came at the most inopportune times that didn’t allow the Longhorns to string together big scoring runs. The Golden Eagles hit .212 in the third set, by far their best set of the match when it came to attacking, and coupled with the errors, Texas couldn’t overcome that in the set.
Senior hitter Logan Eggleston tallied a match-high 15 kills with a .351 hitting percentage while Madisen Skinner had 11 kills. As a team, Texas hit .343 for the match and held Marquette, the No. 7 hitting team in the country coming into the match, to a .098 hitting percentage.
Texas was a force at the net with a season-high 15 blocks. Eggleston said that’s something they’ve prioritized at practice recently and it clearly paid off against the Golden Eagles.
“It’s really cool to see how it translated in a big game like this,” Eggleston said. “I’m very proud of how we blocked tonight, and I don’t think we could have improved on it.”
Along with nine kills, O’Neal had 4.5 blocks and Skinner had two solo blocks with 3.5 total blocks.
Texas (25-1) will face Ohio State on Saturday in the regional finals. Texas beat the Buckeyes in their first two matches of the season 3-0 and 3-1.
Senior libero Zoe Fleck said while they’ll have a look at the matches from the beginning of the season in Columbus against the Buckeyes, it’s essentially “a clean slate.”
“We’ll see what we can learn from it, but it was quite a while ago,” Fleck said. She had a match-high 14 digs. “We’ve had our foot on the gas pedal lately, but Jerritt has done a fantastic job this season about getting us to focus on the next game in front of us and how to get a little better in the gym. It’s not always about our opponent, it’s about how are we going to get better in the gym.”