Catching up with the All-America Volleyball trio
As Texas Volleyball enters its highly-anticipated 2006 campaign, the squad's three returning All-Americans hope to lead the eighth-ranked Longhorns to their ultimate goal-- hanging a National Championship banner at the "Horns' House" on the UT campus -- Gregory Gym.
In 2005, middle blockers Leticia Armstrong (Elkhart, Ind.) and Brandy Magee (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and setter Michelle Moriarty (Houston, Texas) each earned American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-America honors for Coach Jerritt Elliott's squad, marking the first time that Texas placed three Longhorns on the All-America teams since 1995.
After suffering a tough loss to seventh-seeded Hawaii in the NCAA Second Round last December, the Longhorns continued training throughout the spring and prepared for the upcoming season during the summer.
And, as soon as the 2005 season ended, the three nationally-recognized players took it upon themselves to be the best leaders possible.
"I had summer classes in June, and during that time, we were all working out as a team," said Magee, who enters her final year after earning second-team All-America selection last season. "We came in almost every morning throughout the month of June and worked out hard. It was great, because I could stay here to work out, keep my focus and stay in that routine. It set the tone."
Moriarty, one of five native Texans on the 2006 roster, returns for her junior year as the team captain after garnering 2005 All-America honorable mention honors.
Like the rest of the Longhorns, Moriarty plans to finish strong in 2006 after suffering the 2005 NCAA second-round loss.
"Everyone had a bitter taste in their mouths from the end of last season, so we didn't want to let up at all during the summer," Moriarty said. "We were together all summer working out and playing as much as possible. It was really positive."
Armstrong, one of the most dominant hitters in the nation along with Magee, enjoyed a breakout season in 2005, earning an All-Big 12 selection before garnering second-team AVCA All-America honors. She teams with Magee to solidify one of the nation's most menacing front lines.
"I'm really excited about this upcoming year," Armstrong said. "We have all six starters coming back, and we've added three great freshmen to our team. Our approach to the spring and to the preseason has been great."
With the fall preseason workouts in full swing and with first matches at the AVCA Showcase in Madison, Wisc. Just days away, the Longhorns continue to look to the All-America trio to provide leadership as the No. 8 ranked team begins a rugged schedule.
"I love being able to help my teammates out whenever I can," added Moriarty, in true captain form. "I'm there for them whenever they need me, on or off the court. I like being that person who my teammates can rely on."
"It's weird at times, because it's my last year, and it came really fast," said Magee, UT's all-time leader in hitting percentage. "I'm really excited because we have a great group of players this year. I think it's going to be a really competitive team, and we're really fired up! There is good chemistry, which great teams need, and practices are going really well so far."
With a deep pool of talent and high expectations, the bar has been set high for 2006.
That early exit from last year's NCAA second round of play left the team highly unsatisfied, but they are not dwelling on the past.
"We believe we have so much talent this year, and I think we can go very far with the group of players we have," Moriarty concluded.
"We all have such a different and more serious attitude about it all. We are not an unknown team, and we are out to prove we belong among the top teams in the nation. We're much more determined this year. We've been working on showing what we are made of since the spring, and we plan on being exciting and very competitive every day and every match."