Tradition is motivation for No. 2 Volleyball
Aug. 21, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas - When it comes to goal-setting, the Texas Volleyball team isn't shy about sharing. It's ready and apparent every time the Longhorns pull on a jersey with "Texas" across the chest.
"There's the tradition that every year we want to win a national championship. That's been the standard of Texas Volleyball for a really long time," freshman Kat Brooks says. "That motivates us to come in the gym and work hard every day."
The Longhorns' reputation precedes them. UT, ranked No. 2 in the AVCA preseason poll, is the only school in the nation to advance to the NCAA Regional finals in each of the last six national tournaments, and as this 2012 season is ready to dawn, the Longhorns have been ranked in the top 10 nationally for 86 of the past 90 weeks.
As Jerritt Elliott begins his 12th season with the Longhorns, he does so with the nation's second-ranked recruiting class, added to a bench that features Bailey Webster, last year's Big 12 Player of the Year, and Haley Eckerman, last year's National Freshman of the Year.
"The is the deepest team I've probably ever had at Texas. Everyone has ability. The depth has allowed our level of play to be pretty high," Elliott says.
Now for the Longhorns it's about turning talent into competitive edge. Sha'Dare McNeal, UT's lone senior, says that advancement only comes with "repping it out," in practice.
The returning Longhorns have to be the standard-bearers for discipline, determination and patience.
"It's a continuous cycle, and it starts with the coaches for sure," setter Hannah Allison says. "They teach us what is expected and what we need to be able to do to compete at the highest level.
"It's a big responsibility, but it's completely natural too. You've been part of so many practices, you understand what the standard is and what should be expected. It's fun."
The resume UT has assembled for itself is daunting enough, but the Longhorns are smart enough to realize that there's no carryover from one season to the next. Each season has a life of its own, and past accomplishments can only provide motivation and momentum.
"As coaches, we have to teach them to be patient. When you're young, you want things to come in bunches," Elliott says.
In this regard, McNeal's leadership, along with the rest of the captains, will be key. She says she wants this team to take on a personality like the 2009 team, which fell to Penn State in the national championship match.
"That team was scrappy, edgy," McNeal says. "You have to be ready to practice every single day. So, the girls have to show up and be ready to get after it. We're all striving for that same goal, the national championship. You have to set an example, and make it be known that it's not acceptable to take any plays off."