No. 2 Volleyball set to kick off a new year
Aug. 28, 2009
Jennifer Green, Texas Media Relations
The 2009 season looks promising for Longhorns fans, but there is an early dilemma for Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott. Who will start? With six of seven returning starters, three All-Americans and a top five recruiting class, the competition is fierce.
"It's scary when you have 12 girls and you can start any one of them," said senior opposite hitter/setter Ashley Engle.
Engle ranked second on the Longhorn team with 2.90 kills and 2.22 digs per-set a year ago. The Yorba Linda, Calif., native returns for her senior season after collecting a pair of All-America awards and three straight All-Big 12 First Team honors.
"Ashley is one of the players that every coach likes to have on their team because she has the ability to perform each skill at a very high level," said Elliott. "She is our big ball control pin-attacker right now, but she also has the ability to set for this team. Ashley truly has the ability to take over a match at any given time. As one of our captains her leadership is also very important to this team."
Another weapon in Elliott's arsenal is Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Destinee Hooker who led the Big 12 last year in points per-set (4.89) and hit at a .322 clip. Outside hitter and 2007 AVCA National Freshman of the Year Juliann Faucette completes Texas' lethal one-two punch on the left side. Balancing out the team's defense will be senior libero Heather Kisner and sophomore libero Sydney Yogi, while junior Jennifer Doris and sophomore Rachael Adams bolster the Horns' front row. With their experience and power, they will create a potent defensive foundation for UT.
Along with the nine returners, the Longhorns have added three highly-touted freshmen to the mix. Outside hitter Bailey Webster, the top recruit in the country, middle blocker/outside hitter Sha'Dare McNeal, the nation's No. 5 recruit and defensive specialist Cristina Arenas, a two-time All-District 15-5A selection at Cy Woods High School.
"Our freshmen have been battling and every single person is on the "A" side," said Engle.
"When we come into this first tournament, it's really going to show how hard this team has worked during these two-a-days," said Hooker.
"We're not messing around. We want to be challenged and we want to get put in tough spots and find ways to win. Ultimately we're looking for the Big 12 title, getting to the final four and hopefully getting to that final match that we didn't get to last year," said Engle.
The Longhorns open the season Saturday, Aug. 28 at Long Beach State, as they begin fighting their way toward Tampa, Fla., and a shot at the 2009 NCAA Championship. The challenge of defending such a high preseason ranking is one that the Longhorns have accepted during two-a-days and now it is time to carry that challenge to the court.
Hooker sums up the team's attitude heading into the season. "It's such an honor to be No. 2, but we haven't proven anything yet."