Volleyball season marked by No. 6 ranking, Big 12 Championship and winning streak
While disappointing, Texas' elimination in the NCAA Regional finals must not overshadow one of the best seasons in UT annals as the women went 27-4, posting their best mark since 1995.
Season highlights included:
· The Longhorns grabbed a share of the Big 12 Conference Championship for the first time in a decade and made their second straight trip to the NCAA Regional finals.
· The Longhorns wound up No. 6 in the final CSTV/AVCA poll for their highest final ranking since 1995.
· The Longhorns were ranked in the top 7 each week of the 2007 campaign.
Coach Elliott's team also put together a 23-game winning streak (18 straight in Gregory Gym) that began on Sept. 15 and did not end until Dec. 8 in the Regional finals.
In their 19 Big 12 Conference match victories, the Longhorns lost only six games.
Seeded No. 4 in the nation, the Texas women sailed through the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament as December began, whipping Texas State and LSU in Gregory Gym.
Then, they drubbed the University of Florida in their Gainesville home in the Sweet 16.
"I really liked our focus, our level of execution and how we consistently kept a lot of pressure on them," Elliott said of the sweep against LSU in the second-round match. UT also swept Texas State.
"We've talked all year about sustaining a certain level of play," Elliott, the Big 12 Conference Volleyball Coach of the Year, continued.
Elliott wasn't the only UT individual recognized with postseason honors. Outside hitter Juliann Faucette was named Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year. The freshman added AVCA All-America honors and was also National Freshman of the Year.
The 6-2 freshman from San Diego, Calif., became the second Longhorn ever to achieve that honor. Demetria Sance was so recognized in her freshman year in 1995.
Sophomore outside hitter Destinee Hooker was a second-team All-American, while senior setter Michelle Moriarty and junior middle blocker Lauren Paolini were named third-team All-American.
Faucette, Moriarty, Hooker and Paolini were first-team AVCA All-Central Region, while senior Brandy Magee and sophomore Ashley Engle were honorable mentions.
Faucette was the All-Central Region Freshman of the Year and Ellliott the Coach of the Year.
Faucette also was one of five Longhorns selected to the All-Big 12 First Team. Joining Faucette were Engle and Hooker, Moriarty and Paolini.
"Our goal was winning the Big 12 Championship," Moriarty said. "Me and the other seniors had that as our goal when we came in. For four years, that is what we have been working for and we finally got it. It was amazing."
The Longhorns participated in their 24th NCAA Tournament -- the fourth-most appearances of any school in the country. The Horns made back-to-back trips to the final eight after not reaching that point since 1998.
When Elliott assumed the reins of the Longhorns' volleyball team in the spring of 2001, he wanted Texas to become the place to be if you were a volleyball player. He wanted players across the country to want to come to play in Austin.
To that end, last year Elliott landed his second consecutive recruiting class that was ranked No. 2 in the country by PrepVolleyball.com. He got Faucette -- the No. 2 recruit overall nationally -- and for the third time in five years Elliott corralled the No. 2 recruiting class in the country.
Elliott's philosophy of recruiting is "to win National Championships."
"We set some pretty lofty goals in the beginning of this season and when you set goals, you try to accomplish them," Elliott began. "I can't say enough about the leadership that we have had from our seniors (Jen Christian, Alyson Jennings, Magee, Moriarty).
That quartet got UT volleyball back on everyone's radar screen, registering a 103-21 mark during their four years together.
"I am sorry for my seniors who gave everything they had to me, my coaching staff and the program," Elliott continued. "They believed in the vision we had when we took over. It was heart wrenching to me that they didn't get to experience the next round.
"Our seniors came in at a point where the program wasn't ready to be a championship team. It is our ultimate goal to win a National Championship. I am sorry they couldn't leave with a big ring this year."