Road tests continue for No. 10 Volleyball
Sept. 9, 2011
For the 10th-ranked Texas Volleyball team, the road is relentless. Head coach Jerritt Elliott designed it this way.
After last weekend's pair of matches at No. 6 Minnesota, the Longhorns head west for the elite Nike Big Four Classic. UT faces No. 7 Florida on Friday night and then either No. 2 Penn State or No. 3 Stanford on Saturday.
"My goal was to get this young group in front of as many good teams as possible and have some growing games," Elliott said. "I think in the long run it's going to pay big benefits for us."
The Longhorns feature three freshmen and three sophomores who have not previously played in regular rotations, so UT is using this weekend to work on both technical skills and emotional stability. The Longhorns fell last Friday in three sets to the Golden Gophers, and Elliott had his team watch that match on video so the team could observe its own negative body language before facing Minnesota again the next night.
"The way that they changed was very pleasing. We fought as hard as we could and we can live with that as long as we're working and improving," Elliott said. "We knew (the Minnesota matches) would be a challenge, but we didn't know how the team would react. They didn't do so well on the first night. This is a big change for them."
UT has been without Sha'Dare McNeal, one of its best all-rotation players, since the second set of the season-opening match against Pepperdine. Elliott and his staff are still juggling lineups to get the best players in the right spots, particularly in the back row.
So for a young squad, this early season gauntlet is coming fast and furious. While dealing with those rotational issues, the Longhorns are also facing some of the best competition in the country, and with that comes different styles and systems every time they look across the net.
"We have to learn how to adjust, and learn from every match," Elliott said. "We know we're a strong team right now, but ultimately we want to get better. My concern is not wins and losses right now, it's about how much better we can get week to week."