Washington volleyball can’t completely upset Texas; Huskies’ season ends in Sweet 16 loss

AUSTIN, Texas — A year after making the Final Four, the Washington volleyball team will not repeat that feat.

The Huskies faced Texas No. 2 in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, falling in a five-set thriller as the Longhorns rallied after dropping the first two games for 19-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-9 , 15-9 win.

The Huskies played volleyball almost flawlessly during the first two games and looked set for a win when they led 13-8 in Game 3, but they lost all momentum after Texas rallied to force a fourth game.

“It always comes down to a few plays,” said UW coach Keegan Cook. “We’ll think about that third game for a while – and that’s just sport.”

The game turned completely on its head when the Longhorns dominated Game 4, while errors consistently plagued Washington, who netted three times during the fifth game.

Texas junior Logan Eggleston made the most of her match-high 20 kills in the last three games as Washington’s defense seemingly had no response to a rejuvenated Longhorns charge that fed the crowd and also saw Skylar Fields fire 15 shots.

“You have to give Texas a lot of credit for doing things at a higher level,” Cook said. “I thought they had some great plays by the end of the third game when everything really mattered. We needed a few kills and took some good swings – they just dug and played some. every aspect of their game, but most of all it was their defense.”

Samantha Drechsel put down 19 shots and Claire Hoffman ended up with 14 kills to speed up the Huskies.

Washington – seeded somewhat controversially as 15th – seemed to be the much better team early on.

Facing a Longhorns team that has yet to lose at home, the Huskies took control of Game 1 with a 9-0 run, breaking open a 7-7 draw and stunning what started as a raucous crowd.

Blocking Hoffman, Lauren Sanders and Drechsel hindered the Texas batters, while Drechsel fired three kills and Ella May Powell served an ace in the run.

The Longhorns rallied less than five behind balanced striker and some Huskies errors, but Washington ended the game with kills from Drechsel and Emoni Bush.

Texas jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second game, but Washington responded with a 7-2 run as Marin Grote had two kills and a block and Drechsel, Bush and Hoffman all had ripped kills.

The teams mostly traded points to a 13-13 tie, when Washington went on a 6-1 run, with Grote giving a block and kill, Drechsel serving two aces and Powell and Bush hammering both shots.

The Huskies eventually ended the game recording kills from Sanders and Drechsel, Hoffman served an ace and Grote made her third block of the game.

“We followed the game plan very well for the first two games,” said Hoffman. “But I don’t think we reacted like we could have done in the last three games.”

Washington (26-5) gradually built up his 13-8 lead to start Game 3, with Drechsel taking down four shots and serving an ace and Big producing three kills.

But things slowly began to unravel as Texas (27-1) recovered to take a 17-16 lead, and it seemed like a completely different team when Eggleston and Fields came alive and the Huskies fell into a sort of lull.

A Big kill stopped the Texas run and Washington would win the next two points, but the Longhorns forced a fourth game with an 8-3 run and the Huskies never led again.

Texas kept up all the momentum and was seemingly boosted by a crowd that grew louder and won the first nine points in Game 4, with Eggleston continuing to put down multiple kills and Nalani Iosia hitting two aces.

Washington came back in 12-6, but Texas continued its dominant game and Melanie Parra’s six-point serve run pushed Texas’ lead to double digits as it easily won the game.

With a serve error to start the fifth game, the Huskies quickly fell behind 4-1 and there was never a sense that they would rally.

Fields’ final kill finished the game and completed Texas’ comeback.

“They created a lot of scoring opportunities close to the net and I thought they were playing really vertically,” Cook said of Texas in the last three games. “Eggleston was good all game and I credit Fields for working her way back into the game after a slow start. They played high above the band hitting the balls deep and mixed with some power tips and off-speed shots.

Powell had 42 assists and Grote fired seven kills in other notable stats for Washington, who – rightly – grumbled about his seed after winning the Pac-12.

“I always thought that the team coming from this region had a chance to win everything, and I definitely still have that feeling after this game,” Cook said. “I’m proud of my group and think we’ve represented ourselves well for a run of 15 and done a lot of things at an extremely high level over a long period of time – and that’s all you can ask for.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.