Texas volleyball coach Jerritt Elliott challenged his team on Friday night after the Longhorns won their season opener against Northern Iowa but showed some glaring weaknesses.
The Longhorns responded in a big way on Sunday afternoon.
After a close loss in the opening set, No. 4 Texas flipped a switch and dominated the next three sets, beating No. 14 USC 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-21) in the second game of the regular season at Gregory Gym.
"I tell my team all the time that you're not always going to play your best volleyball, you've got to find ways to win," Elliott said. "It's early, and it doesn't define who we are. It defines that we're showing some emotional stability."
Sophomore Logan Eggleston led Texas with 16 kills, five digs, two blocks and set a new career-high with five aces.
Freshman Skylar Fields was second on the team with 12 kills and eight digs. Senior Micaya White had 12 kills and eight digs while Freshman Asjia O'Neal had five kills and three aces and sophomore Sydney Petersen led the Longhorns with 10 digs.
"I thought we played as a team and fought defensively and put a lot of pressure on them as the match went on," Elliott said. "The way that the freshman and sophomore class are performing, I'm pleased and we have something to grow on."
The teams traded the lead in the opening set, as Eggleston and O'Neal had five of seven kills to help Texas build a one-point lead. USC responded with a 5-1 run of its own to take an 18-16 lead midway through the set.
An O'Neal serve deflected off a USC player's leg to tie the set at 21-21 late, but the Trojans won four of the final six points to put it away.
"Early in set one, we had an opportunity for huge separation," Elliott said. "That kind of kept (USC) in the game. We challenged them to keep going about their business and play at our level. Our level is good enough to win those games."
The Longhorns found their groove from then on.
Texas went on an 8-0 run to start the second set - with three aces by Eggleston - and never looked back, evening up the match with a 25-18 win.
"In between the first and second set, we sat down and said, ‘Hey, we're playing good volleyball, we're just not fully committing ourselves to every single play," Eggleston said. "We came out in the second and did that and it showed."
White contributed three straight points early on in the third set as the Longhorns built a four-point lead, which ballooned to as many as eight points. The Trojans cut it down to five before two more White kills and a USC service error to give Texas the set.
Eggleston and Fields contributed six kills in the fourth set, and the Longhorns rattled off six of seven points midway through and held off a late push from the Trojans to win for the second time in three days.
"It's good to start the season strong and go against some good competition," Eggleston said. "It makes us have to play hard and we've learned a lot about ourselves."
The Texas schedule doesn't get any easier going forward as they host No. 3 Minnesota at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. They won't return to Austin until Sept. 20 when Texas A&M comes to town.
"We set up the schedule to challenge our team to see where we are and how we are," Elliott said. "The stakes go up now against Minnesota. We'll take that one set at a time. Then we go to Stanford and BYU. There's that fine line of being a cheerleader and being stern with them."