McNeal shines on Volleyball's opening weekend
Aug. 31, 2009
Spencer Kitley, Texas Media Relations
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- A common question asked of college freshmen is "Are you homesick?" However, for Texas freshman utility player Sha'Dare McNeal there was very little time to get home sick on the Forty Acres before traveling home to the Golden State for the opening weekend of her collegiate career.
A native of San Diego, Calif., McNeal came to Texas this August ranked as the No. 5 high school recruit in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com. With such accolades came high expectations and the 6-1 freshman wasted little time proving her worth on the court, helping the Horns to a pair of victories over ranked opponents on opening weekend at the Long Beach State Baden Classic.
McNeal played a significant role in the Longhorns' wins over No. 15 San Diego and No. 23 Long Beach State, seeing time at opposite hitter and middle blocker and earning the starting the nod against the Toreros. Although she notched just two kills in her collegiate debut, McNeal found other ways to score, tallying three block assists and a service ace, while adding six digs.
Following the Horns come from behind 3-2 victory over Long Beach State, head coach Jerritt Elliott praised McNeal.
"Sha'Dare was amazing tonight," Elliott said. "You never know what you are going to get from a freshman, but she came in and was a point scorer for us tonight, blocking balls, siding-out and creating seams for our other hitters."
In the second match of the weekend, McNeal found herself standing for the national anthem next to the Longhorns' three returning All-Americans in the starting lineup. Her performance and more importantly the attention she garnered from the LBSU defenders earned her the start in just her second collegiate match.
McNeal did not disappoint against San Diego, drawing 11 sets from Texas setter Ashley Engle and connecting for seven kills, committing zero errors and hitting at a .636 clip. She added a solo block and three block assists to her effort.
"Sha'Dare is very steady and she plays with a lot of poise," Elliott said. "She has a great volleyball IQ, she is low error and she moves the ball around nicely. It is nice to see her confidence continuing to grow on the court as she develops as a player."
Her scoring against the Toreros set the stage for the Longhorns in both the second and third sets. McNeal recorded a pair of early blocks in the second frame to help UT claim a quick 9-2 edge and in the third she connected for four kills in the first six points to give the Horns the advantage.
After a solid opening for the No. 2 Longhorns, Texas fans have plenty to be optimistic about in 2009. Everyone was expecting the All-America trio of Engle, junior Juliann Faucette and senior Destinee Hooker to shine, but there is now a new young star named Sha'Dare shining in the Texas Volleyball sky.