2008 Volleyball preview: Middle blockers
Aug. 26, 2008
There is always strength in numbers, and for the 2008 UT volleyball team, the team's strength and depth is indicated at all positions, including middle blocker. Texas enters 2008 with solid group of middle blockers, headlined by senior All-American Lauren Paolini. Sophomores Jennifer Doris and Elizabeth Graham add experience and length, while freshman Rachael Adams brings height and great jumping ability.
Paolini posted a Texas single-season record .418 hitting percentage a year ago en route to earning AVCA All-America Third Team honors. She registered a team-best 130 total blocks and 1.26 blocks per-game, while recording 2.92 kills per-game.
"Lauren ended last season as one of the best middle blockers in the country," Elliott stated. "We were able to solidify her and get her back into that middle position about midway through the season and she excelled in the middle. She gained a tremendous amount of experience with Team USA last spring and she will be one of the premier middle blockers in the country this year.
"She's great in front of the setter, but she's also great behind," Elliott continued. "She's got a very long body and she's able to block with it and create some havoc for our opponents. She's continued to get better and better every year, and we're hoping that she can end on a very special note in her senior season."
At 6-5, Doris provides Texas with another outstanding option in the middle where she will look to improve after a solid spring campaign. In 2007, Doris was successful at the net turning back 43 opponent attacks to the tune of 0.86 blocks per-game in limited action.
"Jen Doris got to play in all of our matches this spring and I feel like it gave her a lot of confidence," Elliott said. "She's been lifting and getting a lot stronger, and that will bode well for her this fall.
"As Doris develops strength and grows into her body, she's going to develop into a really nice middle blocker for our team and will be a major impact player for us when she steps on the court," Elliott added. "I like her growth process and I think she's developing into a solid middle blocker who will only get stronger."
Elizabeth Graham saw limited action in her injury-shortened freshman campaign, managing just four kills, two blocks and a .375 hitting percentage, but a solid spring brightens the horizons for her sophomore season.
Rachael Adams, the nation's third-ranked recruit, is a PrepVolleyball.com All-American, Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection and is the cornerstone of Elliott's 2008 recruiting class. Adams boasts a 36-inch vertical leap and is a two-time member of the U.S. Youth National Team. In 2006 she helped the U.S. claim a gold medal at the NORCECA International Championships in Florida and in 2007, Adams led Team Z to a 17 Open Junior Olympic club national championship.
"Adams is a very physical, dynamic and young middle blocker," Elliott stated. "She has some good experience from being with the Junior National Team and she is very efficient in front of the setter, but needs to develop a bit hitting behind the setter.
"Rachael could potentially be one of the best blockers on this team with her physicality and her explosiveness off the floor. There's going to be a lot of competition in the Big 12 and we're going to need to go through a few different lineups and positions to be successful. It's going to be fun to watch Adams, Graham and Doris progress this season and to see who can push for that starting spot."