Volleyball using spring practices to get ready for championship run
With spring training well under way and the all but one player returning from 2005 -- along with the addition of incoming freshmen Destinee Hooker -- the 2006 Texas Volleyball team is making positive strides toward competing for the national championship next year.
“Our off season has been going pretty well,” UT head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “It’s exciting to have pretty much our whole team back, in addition to adding Destinee for spring drills.
“We have a lot of experience on the court and we are implementing some new systems, but the overall growth of the team has been significant,” Elliott, who next year begin his sixth UT season, adds.
Although the team finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 last year, the Horns were not satisfied with their short postseason run. They have been working hard on their strength and overall conditioning, establishing their potential to be one of the toughest Longhorn squads in recent years.
The team’s main focus this off-season has been its defense. The Longhorns are spending the majority of their time in practice on blocking – implementing different blocking schemes and blocking systems – and they have continued to work on their serve receive.
With their growth this season, the Longhorns coaches see the team’s ability to become a more physical team – even more so than the 2005 team, which finished in the nation’s top 20 in both hitting and blocking.
With the team’s overall size – an mark that will only rise from its nation’s leading average in 2005 with the addition of two players taller than 6-foot-3 - the 2006 squad wants to establish itself as a major factor when it comes to its presence at the net.
“I think all of our players have progressed really well,” says Elliot. “Jen Todd has been our most improved player so far this spring. She is a lot faster, a lot stronger and doing some really nice stuff at the net.
“We’ve seen our younger players like Lauren Paolini and RuthAnn Feist really stepping up. Overall, it’s been exciting to see the growth of this year’s team,” Elliot finished.
Longhorn fans have a lot to look forward to in 2006 after a 24-5 season in 2005 that saw three returning players earn All-America honors. In addition, all six starters and libero Alyson Jennings return in 2006 and the Horns will only get deeper as two top-10 recruits are set the join the fold.
Texas will spend the last three weekends of its six-week spring team-training season facing top national competition. The Longhorns will get a chance to see how well they have progressed in spring drills when they face New Mexico State and Florida twice in Houston, Friday-Saturday, April 14-15, before closing out their spring schedule at the very competitive Chicago Tournament on April 22.
By the end of the spring training session, Elliot hopes to set a daily standard of excellence.
“Great teams are created on everyday consistency in the practice gym,” Elliott concludes, “And that’s where we want to establish ourselves heading as we head into 2006.”