Depth steers Volleyball
Aug. 29, 2010
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- As the Texas Volleyball program has climbed toward the apex of its sport, the Longhorns have assembled some streaks that are downright daunting.
Now ranked third in the AVCA Division I Coaches poll, UT has appeared in the top 10 for 58 straight weeks and the top five for 32 straight weeks. You’d have to go all the way back to the 2004 season to find a time when the Longhorns weren’t ranked among the top 25 teams in the country.
So the question might simply be: How? How has Jerritt Elliott built this system?
The Longhorns find themselves now in the enviable position of reloading, not rebuilding. Depth is used as a weapon. UT has talented toughness that simply overwhelms, and evidence of this fact was apparent throughout UT’s three sweep victories in the season-opening Burnt Orange Classic at Gregory Gym.
On Friday night, UT won against TCU in record fashion, needing little more than an hour to complete the sweep. Against McNeese State on Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns boasted four players with at least seven kills in the match, and then concluded the evening against Houston with a display of character.
“We got a chance to look at a lot of different players this weekend. I felt like we improved throughout the weekend, and now it’s about getting back in the gym, working on some areas and continuing to improve,” Elliott said.
After winning the first two sets against the Cougars, UT fell behind by as many as six points early in the third. This deficit was foreshadowed in the previous sets. Houston settled into an offense of dinks and tips, and UT was scrambling. Passes were loose, sets were off and the Longhorns simply relied on their power to overcome. But with Houston leading 9-3, the Longhorns needed something more -- they needed some consistent poise.
Cristina Arenas provided some well-placed serves. Juliann Faucette threw down a few heated kills, and freshman Ashley Bannister added finally evened the set at 13-all. The Longhorns allowed Houston only five more points the rest of the way.
It wasn’t particularly flashy, just sound. Every player contributed; the Longhorns knew their roles and completed their assignments.
“It was a really good challenge for us,” said Faucette, who finished with 13 kills against Houston and was named most outstanding player. “We started out a little shaky, but we fought through it and that’s where a team builds character.”
Freshman setter Hannah Allison, who had 75 assists in the two Saturday matches, served out the final five points. It was a fitting display of duplicity for Allison, who wowed throughout the weekend with her vision and finesse at the net.
“I’m glad they came at us the way they did and showed our weaknesses," Allison said. "We improved even in this match, so we can build on that. It was definitely a positive for us."