Volleyball picked second in Big 12, earns five preseason honors
DALLAS -- The University of Texas volleyball team was picked to finish second in the 2006 Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll, announced Wednesday by the conference office, while five Longhorn players earned Preseason All-Big 12 honors in the process.
UT paced the conference with a Big 12-record four preseason All-Big 12 selections, including a trio of 2005 All-Americans and All-Big 12 standouts in 6-2 senior middle blocker Brandy Magee, 6-1 junior middle blocker Leticia Armstrong, and 5-10 junior setter Michelle Moriarty. Joining the trio on the Preseason All-Big 12 squad is 5-10 senior outside hitter Dariam Acevedo, a 2005 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Selection.
In addition, high school All-America standout and incoming Longhorn freshman Ashley Engle earned Preseason Freshman of the Year honors. Engle (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza HS) is a 6-3 setter and right side hitter.
Texas is under the direction of sixth-year head coach Jerritt Elliott, and is coming off a 24-5 season. The Longhorns were Big 12 runnerup to Nebraska a year ago, as the Huskers went on to finish second nationally. Texas posted a 17-3 mark in Big 12 competition in 2005 and advanced to the NCAA Championship where the team fell in the second round to No. 7 Hawaii.
Nebraska is the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 title for the 10th consecutive season in a vote of the league's head coaches. The Huskers (32-2 overall and 19-1 in the Big 12 a year ago) received eight of the 11 possible first-place votes and 98 points overall. Texas picked up the other three first-place votes as Texas recorded 93 points. (Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.)
The Longhorns were followed by Missouri, Kansas State and Texas A&M filling the top five spots in the preseason ranking. Colorado was sixth with Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech rounding out the poll.
Nebraska also returns reigning conference Player of the Year Sarah Pavan, a 6-5 junior outside hitter, who earned 2006 Preseason Player of the Year honors as well. In conference action, Pavan ranked among the Big 12 leaders in points per game (4.87, fourth), kills (3.93, fifth) and hitting percentage (.365, sixth).
Kansas' 6-2 middle blocker Natalie Uhart, a transfer from Long Beach State, was tabbed Preseason Newcomer of the Year. Uhart, played three seasons for the 49ers, and was named to the Big West Conference All-Freshman Team in 2003.
Engle starred for four varsity seasons at Esperanza High School, where she led the Aztecs to the 2005 California Division I-AA championship as a senior, collecting 28 kills and six digs in the finals. As a senior, she also was named California Division I South Section Co-Player of the Year, in addition to being voted the Orange County Register Player of the Year. Engle recently was named to the 2006 Junior Olympics All-Tournament Team last month in Atlanta as a member of the nationally-recognized Mizuno Long Beach Volleyball Club team that posted a national runner-up finish at that event. In the summer of 2005, Engle played on the U.S. Youth National Team that finished fourth in the World Championships.
Last year, Armstrong (Elkahart, Ind.), Magee (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and Moriarty (Houston, Texas) all earned 2005 American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honors, marking the first time UT placed three on the All-America teams since 1995. Each also claimed First-Team All-Big 12 and First-Team AVCA All-Central Region accolades.
Armstrong earned second-team All-America honors and Magee nabbed third-team honors, while Moriarty was an honorable mention performer to become the 25th, 26th and 27th Longhorns to earn All-America honors. Each player earned the first All-America honor of her career.
Armstrong paced last year's Longhorns most of the season in hitting percentage, while also leading the team in total blocks (135) and blocks per game (1.36). She finished the season hitting .356, with 316 kills for a 3.19 kills per game mark. In Big 12 matches, Armstrong ranked in the top 10 among all league players in four different categories.
Magee led the team in hitting percentage (.377) and is ranked 24th nationally in the category. That mark is the third-highest single-season hitting mark in Texas history. Magee was second on the UT squad with 321 kills and a 3.24 kills per game mark, while also recording a career-high 109 blocks (1.10 blocks per game). Magee finished the Big 12 slate ranked in four different categories (hitting percentage, blocks, aces and points).
Moriarty recorded 1,392 assists in 2005, the eighth-highest single-season total in UT history. Moriarty's 13.38 assists per game average ranked 10th nationally, as she led the Horns to a .272 team hitting percentage. In the last two years, Moriarty has quarterbacked UT to its top two hitting marks in program history as the '04 Horns hit a program record .305. Moriarty ranked second in the Big 12 in assists and will begin her junior season 431 assists shy of sixth place in the UT career assists records.
Acevedo averaged 3.77 kills per game and 4.42 points per game last year, registering 20 double-figure kill matches. In the Big 12 Conference statistics, she led the league in aces per game (0.39) and total aces (29), while her 3.91 kills per game ranked sixth in the league.
Ten of the 11 Big 12 conference teams open the season on Aug. 25, while Nebraska will play its season opener on Sept. 1. Conference action is slated to begin on September 13th.
2006 BIG 12 PRESEASON POLL & AWARDS
Rank Team (First-place Votes) Points 1. Nebraska (8) 98 2. Texas (3) 93 3. Missouri 79 4. Kansas State 71 5. Texas A&M 57 6. Colorado 51 7. Kansas 45 8. Iowa State 37 9. Baylor 35 10. Oklahoma 27 11. Texas Tech 12
Note: Ten points were awarded for first-place votes, nine for second, etc. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
Preseason Player of the Year: Sarah Pavan, Nebraska, OH, Jr., 6-5
Preseason Newcomer of the Year: Natalie Uhart, Kansas, MB, Sr., 6-2
Preseason Freshman of the Year: Ashley Engle, Texas S/OPP, Fr., 6-3
PRESEASON ALL-BIG 12 VOLLEYBALL TEAM
Name School Pos. Cl. Ht. Desiree Guilliard-Young Baylor MB Sr. 6-5 Ashley Nu'u Colorado S Sr. 5-10 Erin Boeve Iowa State MB Jr. 6-2 Emily Brown Kansas OPP/S Jr. 6-2 Jessica Vander Kooi Missouri OH Sr. 6-2 Jordan Larson Nebraska OH So. 6-2 Sarah Pavan Nebraska OH Jr. 6-5 Eliane Santos Oklahoma MB Sr. 6-2 Dariam Acevedo Texas OH Sr. 5-10 Leticia Armstrong Texas MB Jr. 6-1 Brandy Magee Texas MB Sr. 6-2 Michelle Moriarty Texas S Jr. 5-10 Christi Hahn Texas A&M MB/OH Sr. 6-1
Note: Twelve players are named to the preseason all-conference team -- a tie occurred in voting to result in 13 members this season.