No. 1 Volleyball preview: at Oklahoma

No. 1 Texas Volleyball vs. Oklahoma
Texas: 18-1 (11-1 Big 12) | Oklahoma: 14-10 (4-8 Big 12)
Saturday, Nov. 12 – 6 pm CT
McCasland Field House | Norman, Okla.

Texas leads the all-time series against Oklahoma, 60-4, after sweeping the Sooners earlier this season in Austin. The Longhorns have won the last 17 meetings over the Sooners, dating back to the 2014 season. In the win earlier this season, Asia O’Neal had 13 kills with a .647 hitting percentage.

Texas returned to the top spot in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll after dropping to No. 2 in the Oct. 24 polls. The Longhorns began the 2022 season as the No. 2 ranked team in the preseason poll before spending eight-straight weeks ranked No. 1. Texas appeared in the top four of the AVCA preseason poll for the 16th consecutive season and was ranked in the top two spots for the ninth time in the last 16 seasons. Since 2019 the Longhorns have spent 32 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. 10.

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 200 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 were the country’s last remaining undefeated team before falling in five sets at Iowa State, snapping a 20-match regular-season winning streak dating back to last season. Texas last lost to Iowa State in 2016 in Ames, before rattling off eight-straight wins to advance to the national championship match and finishing runner up. Prior to that, the Longhorns lost to the Cyclones in 2012 in the regular season finale before going on to win the national championship.

Logan Eggleston became the Longhorns’ all-time leader in career aces, currently with 192 service aces, surpassing 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 0.42 aces per set over her 459 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 4.44 digs per set. Fleck is third 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 Honorable Mention All-American in 2017 and 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 .337, the most assists per set nationally at 13.73, and the third-most kills per set with 14.56. He also leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth nationally with 11.51 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 .337 hitting percentage, led by Asia O’Neal, who ranks first nationally with a .484 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 13 seasons, Texas has produced a 188-12 (.940) record in home matches. In that same span, the Longhorns have gone 103-1 in home league matches. The Longhorns’ only home Big 12 loss since 2010 came against Oklahoma on Oct. 25, 2014. Texas has won 64-straight home matches in Big 12 play, dating back to the 2014 season. During that streak, the Longhorns have had 52 sweeps and only dropped a total of 16 sets.

Texas currently ranks fifth nationally and first in the Big 12, with an average attendance of 4,186. The Longhorns have had six-straight sellouts at Gregory Gym and eight overall this season. 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.

UT owns a 134-57 (.702) 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 5-0 this season against ranked opponents.

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, Asia O’Neal and Molly Phillips all returns. Of the freshmen, three are top-50 ranked recruits Emma Halter and Gatorade State Players of the Year Devin Kahawai 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 (Cal) and Keonilei Akana (Nebraska).

The Longhorns have won 28 of their last 30 road matches dating back to the 2019 season. Since the 2011 season Texas has produced a 109-20 (.845) record in true road matches, with only five of those losses coming to unranked teams.

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.

Asia 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.

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