It wasn’t the best end to the non-conference season for No. 6 Texas, but it was certainly a learning experience for a team full of young players.
The Longhorns dropped just their second game of the season on the road Wednesday night against Rice and rebounded with a 3-0 sweep against Texas A&M at home on Friday night.
“We got everything we wanted out of (non-conference play) that we wanted except an 8-0 record,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “But I didn’t schedule it thinking we’d be 8-0, but I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position and learned a lot about ourselves.”
Big 12 play begins on Wednesday when the Longhorn host Iowa State at 7 p.m. at Gregory Gym. The Cyclones are 9-3 on the season but come to Austin on a seven-game winning streak, including wins over N.C. State and Iowa.
“They’re kind of a blue-collar team and they kind of get after it and compete really well, they always have,” Elliott said. “They’ve got two good middles and solid outsides and a good setter.
On Friday, the Owls stormed out of the gate to take a 2-0 lead, but the Longhorns rallied in the next two sets to ties things up. Rice won the match after downing Texas 15-13 in the decisive fifth set.
“Rice is a different team than they’ve been in the past,” Head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “It was disappointing to lose the game, but you talk to your players about how well teams can play against Texas, especially in state, and they got to see that. It was a good lesson for them to learn.”
In both games this week, while the regular stars stood out, a couple of younger players stood out.
Freshman Asjia O’Neal recorded a career-best nine kills, leading the team by hitting .500, adding four blocks in the loss against Rice. And freshman Molly Phillips had five kills and a team-high six blocks Friday against Texas A&M.
“I’ve been really pleased with them, they’ve been getting some good experience,” Elliott said. “By the time October rolls around, Asjia is going to be rolling and be an offensive weapon. Molly is very calm and has a lot of confidence.”
Since those two games, the team has had their first weekend off since early August. With the dating Big 12 schedule about to heat up, any time to rest up is very much needed.
“We’ve got some nagging injuries and hopefully we can heal up a little bit, but it’s also the emotional side,” Elliott said. “The game is getting a lot more parity, so you’ve got to be in the right frame of mind to compete.”