The No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team is back in the Final Four for the second straight season. On Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN, they will face their toughest challenge of the season when they face-off against the No. 4 seeded Texas Longhorns.
This will be UT’s No. 14 appearance in the Final Four and they’ll be looking to add their third national championship to the trophy case back in Austin. Their team is chock full of All-American talent and they have already beaten two Big Ten teams (Nebraska and Penn State) in their previous two matches.
As we don’t get Longhorn Network up here, we had a couple of questions about Texas and thankfully Gerald Goodridge, of our Texas SB Nation cousins at Burnt Orange Nation, had some time to answer them.
With the weird fall/spring schedule for teams in the Big 12 due to other conferences postponing their seasons to only spring due to COVID-19 how did the Longhorns handle the break in between the two “seasons?” They’ve only lost one match all year so it doesn’t seem like it affected them too much on the court, but were there any off the court difficulties?
Honestly, Texas didn’t have much of a drop off in second half of the season - in spite of their only loss of the season coming in March at the hands of the Rice Owls in five sets. Texas nearly won that one as well, in spite of being without head coach Jerritt Elliott due to a positive COVID test, but their strategy of aggressive serving caught up with them. I wouldn’t say this to any of the players, but I wonder if they were looking past Rice a bit and ahead to the final matchup against Baylor later that week.
This Texas team is extremely talented, but Big 12 Player of the Year Logan Eggleston has been on a different level this year. She had 18 kills against Nebraska in the Elite 8 but what I’m more interested in is her five aces. What makes her so dangerous from the service line?
The aces are actually a result of a philosophical choice from the Texas coaching when it comes to service. Elliott has told his team to serve as aggressively as possible, in order to maximize their chances at aces - which Eggleston delivered on. The other edge of that sword is that the aggressive serves lead to an inflated number of service errors as well.
Eggleston finished with four service errors against Nebraska and the team as a whole finished with 15 errors to the eight aces against the Cornhuskers. It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy that has clearly worked, but nearly cost Texas in a big way against Nebraska as well.
Asjia O’Neal and Brionne Butler (the nation’s leader in blocks entering the NCAA Tournament) form an imposing block for the Longhorns. If you were coaching the Badgers would you tell them to try and power through the block or try more of an offspeed game?
Nebaska found success with both in spots and as silly as it may sound, varying the approach between the two is probably the best bet. There were some spots where you saw gaps in the block and Nebraka’s hitters showed incredible ball placement on some of them. Geometry will be key and trying to push through the Texas block, so try to play the angles.
What is your prediction for the match?
I honestly have no clue. Both Texas and Wisconsin played in matches that would fit in perfectly as the national championship match. I’d be a bad Texas blogger if I didn’t pick them in this spot, but I think either way we’re looking at a full five.