No. 1 Volleyball preview: Kansas State

No. 1 Texas Volleyball vs. Kansas State
Texas: 12-0 (4-0 Big 12) | K-State: 11-6 (2-2 Big 12)
Wednesday, Oct. 12 – 7 pm CT
Gregory Gymnasium | Austin, Texas

Texas leads the all-time series with Kansas State, 48-8, and holds a 27-3 advantage all-time in Austin. Last season, the Longhorns swept a pair of matches over the Wildcats at Gregory Gym. Over the two matches Texas hit .358 while holding K-State to a .128 hitting percentage.

Texas sits in the top spot of the AVCA Coaches’ Poll after beginning the 2022 season as the No. 2 ranked team in the preseason poll. The Longhorns appeared in the top four of the AVCA preseason poll for the 16th consecutive season and were ranked in the top two spots for the ninth time in the last 16 seasons. Since 2019 the Longhorns have spent 31 total weeks ranked No. 1. Texas, who was picked first in the Big 12 Coaches’ Poll for the 12th consecutive year, is one of two Big 12 teams in the top-25 as Baylor checks in at No. 18.

Texas has been the model of consistency for well over a decade now, being the only Division I volleyball program to have ended each of the last 16 seasons ranked in the top 10. The Longhorns have spent each of the last 196 AVCA polls ranked in the top 10, while the last time Texas was not ranked in the top 10 was Oct. 11, 2010. The Longhorns have also finished in the top 5 in 13 of the last 16 seasons, including 11-straight years from 2008-18. Texas also has the nation’s longest active streak of NCAA Regional Semifinal (“Sweet 16”) appearances with 16-straight. Of the last 16 regional semifinal appearances, the Longhorns have advanced to 15 NCAA Regional Finals, 10 National Semifinals and five National Championship matches.

The Longhorns remain undefeated and have four wins over teams currently ranked in the top 15 of the AVCA poll – Ohio State (2x), Minnesota and Stanford. Texas is one of two undefeated teams in the country along with Towson and is the only team with a 4-0 record against ranked opponents. The Longhorns have only dropped a total of five sets so far this season, tied with Towson for the fewest in the country.

Ace Queen
Logan Eggleston is on the verge of becoming the Longhorns’ all-time leader in career aces, currently with 184 service aces. Eggleston is set to pass Mira Topic (2001-04) who had 185 service aces in her Texas career. Topic, who played in 432 career sets also holds the program record with 0.43 service aces per set. Eggleston is currently averaging 0.43 aces per set over her 432 career sets played. Eggleston is also chasing the Big 12 record of 205 career aces, held by Baylor’s Taylor Barnes (2006-09).

Zoe Fleck has made an instant impact this season, starting every match at libero and averaging 4.73 digs per set. Fleck is second in the conference in digs per set and has already been named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week three times this season. Texas has not had a player average 4-plus digs per set since Cat McCoy set a program record with 4.41 digs per set in 2017. McCoy, the Texas’ all-time career digs leader, was named to the All-Big 12 second team in 2015 and 2017.

In her first season as the Longhorns’ setter, Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres has quarterbacked the Texas offense to the nation’s top hitting percentage at .322 and the fifth-most kills per set nationally with 14.32. She also leads the Big 12 and ranks third nationally with 11.63 assists per set. In 2019 at Utah, Ka’aha’aina-Torres averaged 11.33 assists per set and led the Utes to the NCAA Regional Semifinal. She was named an Honorable Mention All-American in both 2019 and 2020.

Texas currently leads the country with a .322 hitting percentage, led by Asjia O’Neal, who ranks fifth nationally with a .441 hitting percentage. Last season Texas tied a program record and led the NCAA with a .343 team hitting percentage. That mark matches the 2007 team for the best in school history. The Longhorns have hit over a .300 clip in each of the last seven seasons from 2015-21, all ranking in the top-10 single season marks in program history. Texas hit .334 in 2020 to finish third in the nation and that mark was the fifth-best in Longhorn history. The 2019 team led the nation with a .325 hitting percentage, which is the sixth-best in Texas history.

After clinching the 2021 Big 12 title, Texas has won 27 conference championships, including 14 Big 12 titles and 13 Southwest Conference Championships. The 2021 title was the fifth-straight Big 12 Championship for the Longhorns, who have won or shared 10 of the last 11 league championships and 13 of the previous 15.

A large part of the Longhorns winning 10 of the last 11 Big 12 Championships has come down to winning at home. Over the last 12 seasons, Texas has produced a 168-11 (.939) record in home matches. Texas has also won 60-straight home matches in Big 12 play, dating back to the 2014 season. During that streak, the Longhorns have had 48 sweeps and only dropped a total of 16 sets. Over the last 13 seasons, the Longhorns have gone 99-1 in home league matches. The Longhorns’ only home Big 12 loss since 2010 came against Oklahoma on Oct. 25, 2014.

Texas currently ranks fifth nationally and first in the Big 12, with an average attendance of 3,908. Last season Texas ranked fourth nationally, with an average attendance of 3,626. The Longhorns also set a single match Gregory Gym attendance record with a crowd of 5,080 for the NCAA Regional Final match against Nebraska. For the season, Texas had six crowds of more than 4,000 at Gregory Gym.

The Longhorns have won 26 of their last 27 road matches dating back to the 2019 season. Since the 2011 season Texas has produced a 107-19 (.849) record in true road matches, with only four of those losses coming to unranked teams. The Longhorns’ last two road losses have been against top-10 ranked Baylor.

Texas returns seven players from the 2021 squad, including three All-Big 12 players, and welcomes one of the nation’s best recruiting classes featuring five freshmen and six transfers. The familiar faces of Logan Eggleston, Asjia O’Neal and Molly Phillips all returns. Of the freshmen, three are top-50 ranked recruits with Emma Halter and Gatorade State Players of the Year I become Kahahawai and Marianna Singletary. The group of transfers includes three players who have received All-America recognition, Zoe Fleck (UCLA/UCSB), Madison Skinner (Kentucky) and Kayla Caffey (Nebraska/Missouri). The other three transfers all played significant roles at their previous schools, Jenna Ewert (Colorado), Bella Bergmark (Horse) and To Keonila Akana (Nebraska).

UT owns a 133-57 (.700) record against ranked opponents over the last 19 seasons (2004-22) and boasts a 61-13 (.824) home mark against ranked opponents at Gregory Gymnasium (58-13) and the Frank Erwin Center (3-0) during that span. The Longhorns are 4-0 this season against ranked opponents.

Logan Eggleston was recognized as the 2021 National Player of the Year, marking the fourth time that a Texas player has been named the publication’s national player of the year after Destinee Hooker (2009) and Haley Eckerman (2012 and 2013). Eggleston was also AVCA Southwest Region Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. The Longhorns have previously had Chiaka Ogbogu (2017) and Micaya White (2018) win the award. Eggleston is also the first back-to-back recipient of the Big 12 Player of the Year award since Eckerman won the award three-straight seasons from 2012-14. A Texas player has been named the league’s Player of the Year in 10 of the last 12 years.

On Oct. 22, 2021 at Iowa State, Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott won his 523rd match at Texas, making him the winningest coach in Texas Longhorns Volleyball history. He surpassed Mick Haley, who won 522 matches at Texas from 1980-96. Elliott’s career .831 winning percentage is the best in program history and ranks fourth among active Division-I coaches.

Asjia O’Neal was named the winner of the 2021 Honda Inspiration Award, presented annually by the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA). O’Neal recovered from open heart surgery in 2020 to help lead Texas to the runner-up finish at the NCAA Tournament. The heart surgery took place in January 2020 and was her second to repair a leak in her mitral valve, a condition she was born with. The surgery, which lasted more than eight hours, was extremely successful and there was no more leakage. O’Neal worked back to full strength and finished second in the Big 12 Conference with a .411 hitting percentage to go with 222 kills. She was named first team All-Big 12 and first team AVCA All-Region, as well as an Honorable Mention All-American. She also excelled in the classroom, being named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team as a Corporate Communication major.