OMAHA, Neb. — Logan Eggleston walked to the press conference podium following the end of Texas’ volleyball season Saturday night.
That in itself wasn’t out of the ordinary. Eggleston, a team captain for the past four years, has long represented the Longhorns at season-ending sessions with the media. As a sophomore in 2019, she had to find the words to explain a stunning Sweet 16 loss to Louisville. During the pandemic season that ended in April 2021, she stared into a Zoom screen and talked about coming up short against Kentucky in the championship match. After Nebraska upended the Longhorns last season in the Elite Eight, she broke down while talking about departing UT seniors Brionne Butler and Sydney Petersen.
But on Saturday night, things were different.
Flanked by head coach Jerritt Elliott and longtime teammate Asjia O’Neal, Eggleston proudly sat on the stage at the CHI Health Center. She wore ski goggles, a celebratory T-shirt and hat and a huge smile.
There was no need for tears — the sad kind, at least — after the Longhorns’ 25-22, 25-14, 26-24 sweep of Louisville in the NCAA’s championship match. With the victory, Texas secured its first national title since 2012.
“Yeah, it’s a lot more fun not to be crying sad tears at the end of the season,” Eggleston said while thanking his teammates. “We can actually say we won our last game. It feels amazing.”
Texas (28-1) convincingly won the first two sets, but needed to show some fight before it celebrated. After a successful challenge shifted the momentum to Louisville in the final session, the Cardinals seized a 24-22 lead and were poised to extend the match.
Coming out of the timeout, the Longhorns quickly tied the match on an O’Neal kill and a Louisville attacking error. Then Eggleston contributed a kill and Texas was suddenly serving for a championship.
On match point, Keonilei Akana fired off a serve that Louisville’s Claire Chaussee couldn’t handle. As the volleyball caromed backwards and out of the reach of the nearest Cardinal, Texas players dogpiled on the court.
“I literally saw the serve coming out of my peripherals, going over the net, I was like oh, that’s an ace,” O’Neal said. “I turned around and collapsed to the ground.”
Texas joins Stanford’s 2018 title team as the only school in the last decade to win a championship as the NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed. This is the first Texas team to lose less than twice over the course of a season. The 28 wins are the fifth-most of the Elliott era, which began in 2001.
Louisville (31-3) was led by Chaussee’s 12 kills. The Cardinals were searching for their first national championship.
O’Neal said there was no panic when Louisville stormed to its 24-22 advantage. In fact, the fifth-year middle blocker said there was even a “sense of serenity” in the team’s huddle.
“We still had all the momentum, I felt like,” she said. “It was our game. I knew we were fully capable of coming back and being up in the game. We were calm and confident in what we could do. We just went back and went to the basics and were able to pull it out.”
Eggleston finished with 19 kills and was named the most outstanding player of the NCAA Tournament. Her crowning achievement came one day after she earned the AVCA’s player of the year award.
In the first set, she showed an announced crowd of 16,952 what the hype was all about. As Texas responded to an early 3-0 deficit, Eggleston had 10 kills on 16 swings. Texas hit .533 in the opening set, but one key point was credited to the defense.
Leading 20-18, Texas prevented Louisville from scoring as Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres, Zoe Fleck and Emma Halter all had significant saves on a long rally that ended on a combination block from Molly Phillips and O’Neal. Eggleston ran down a deflected ball that was sailing towards the scorer’s table to keep the point going.
Texas never trailed in the second set, then rallied late in the final frame.
In addition to Eggleston’s offensive output, Texas got 12 kills from Madisen Skinner and nine from O’Neal. Ka’aha’aina-Torres, the senior setter, had 37 assists while Fleck recorded 14 digs from her libero position.
“For me, I’ve been coaching 22 years at Texas and I think another six or seven years at USC prior to that,” Elliott said. “I told my wife today this was the most important match I’ve ever coached in regards to the match I wanted to win the most because of the two women sitting beside me, but also the 16 women that were battling every single day in our gym.”
Saturday’s sweep was a legacy-securing moment for Eggleston, too. She had returned to Texas for a fifth season in part because she wanted to chase a championship. She finishes her career with the most aces in school history and the third-most kills. One of five four-time All-Americans Texas has ever had, Eggleston is UT’s first AVCA player of the year.
After the match, Elliott suggested that Texas someday needs to erect a statue of Eggleston on campus. He also believes that his star outside hitter should now be mentioned among the greats in her sport.
“I said ‘any last comments’ today at practice, and my little freshman, Emma, said, ‘winners win,'” Elliott said. “To become one of the greats in any sport, you’ve got to win a championship. And Logan did that now. So she puts herself on an extremely elite level along with the rest of the players.”