Competition wins in Volleyball Orange/White scrimmage
Aug. 20, 2011
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Volleyball coach Jerritt Elliott’s problems are envious. Just six days from the Longhorns’ season opening match on Aug. 26, the first UT event to be televised on the Longhorn Network, and the coaching staff is still scratching its collective head.
“I can honestly say that every player on our team right now has an opportunity to start,” Elliott said. “It’s what makes us good, it’s why we recruit good players, because they have to get in here and battle it out. At the end of the day, they make each other better, which bodes well for us down the road.”
The Orange/White scrimmage, held in conjunction with the football team’s annual autograph day at Gregory Gym on Saturday, provided the setting to find some answers for the fourth-ranked Longhorns.
Who would stand out? The answer? Everyone at times, which means Elliott’s job doesn’t get any easier. The scrimmage ended after four sets, with both squads each winning two. Four players totaled double-digit kills, and freshman Haley Eckerman hit .400 on the day.
The only thing for certain at this point is that the Longhorns are long, as in tall, and also blessed with talent, physicality and depth. In fact, Elliott calls this the most competitive gym he’s ever assembled at UT.
“Sometimes you look down the line, and you just don’t know what to say. Any person can play,” opposite hitter Bailey Webster said. “I think it’s more exciting, and more of a battle, because you’re trying to play your best every day.”
At other times, three freshmen – Eckerman, Bell and Madelyn Hutson -- protected the net, and none stands shorter than 6-foot-1. That freshman trio, rated the No. 1 incoming class in the nation, impressed the entire gym with their physical presence and attitude.
“They bring a lot of vocal energy, which is different. Freshmen usually come in and are not as strong vocally,” setter Michelle Kocher said. “They are not afraid to voice their opinion and to be loud, and that’s great because it pushes everyone to be better.”
McNeal’s all-around court presence could provide the Longhorns with a steadying force as they wade into a non-conference schedule that features Stanford, Minnesota and Florida, while Sydney Yogi’s reenergized defensive spark should also be an anchor.
To be sure, the Longhorns have all the pieces to be a final four contender for a fourth-straight year. Now it comes down to assembling talent and skill into the package of a team.
“They’re learning how to fight together. On paper we look pretty good, but we have to learn how to create an identity,” Elliott said. “We have to get to that point where we’re able to work together as a unit. It’s going to take some time, because it’s so difficult to figure out who is going to start in our lineup.”