Volleyball streaks through regular season, opening rounds of NCAAs
What's more certain than death and taxes? Coach Jerritt Elliott's volleyball team, which last lost a match when the other George Bush was President.
Or so it seems.
The fourth-seeded Texas women sailed through the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament as December began, whipping Texas State and LSU in Gregory Gym and extending their winning streak to 22 matches.
The Horns face the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., in the Round of 16 on Dec. 7.
"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. "Now we are doing that. The next season has started."
Elliott wasn't the only UT individual recognized with postseason honors. Outside hitter Juliann Faucette was named Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year.
Faucette also was one of five Longhorns selected to the All-Big 12 first team. Joining Faucette are sophomores Ashley Engle and Destinee Hooker, senior Michelle Moriarty and junior Lauren Paolini.
The Longhorns (24-3) claimed their first Big 12 Conference Championship since 1997.
"That was our goal, 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 are participating in their 24th NCAA Tournament -- the fourth-most appearances of any school in the country. Last year, the Horns made their first trip to the Round of 8 since 1998.
As for being the top seed in the Gainesville Regional bracket, Elliott said, "We put in the work to do it. The bottom line is that we are a high seed and we're going to face some really good teams. Whoever is in front of us is someone we have to knock off to reach our ultimate goal of the final four and be in the contention for the championship."
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, Elliott landed his second consecutive recruiting class that was ranked No. 2 in the country by prepvolleyball.com, grabbing Faucette, the No. 2 recruit overall -- the third time in five years that Elliott has 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 and our captains.
"This team has shown maturity and growth. Our seniors came in at a point where the program wasn't ready to be a championship team. It is our ultimate goal to leave with a big ring, with a National Championship."