Versatility, chemistry lift Volleyball over rival Texas A&M
Sept. 30, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- When the Texas Volleyball team talks strategy, the Longhorns use funny words.
Like "rekindle." Like "relationships."
The conversation following the second-ranked Longhorns' sweep victory in the State Farm Lone Star Showdown against Texas A&M indeed sounded a lot more like a matter of the heart, and not just a sterile sport.
But that's exactly what a packed Gregory Gym crowd of 4,229 witnessed on Wednesday night. They saw a team use chemistry and bonds that were formed on practice courts and in dining halls actually carry over into crunch time.
The Longhorns rallied to win the first set 28-26, despite three A&M set points, 18 ties and seven lead changes. And then with momentum tenuously in their palm, the Longhorns changed everything.
Michelle Kocher, last year's Big 12 Freshman of the Year who had played just one set in conference matches this season, came in to set while Ashley Engle took more passing responsibility out of the back row. This was an adjustment to counter the Aggies' risk-reward serving strategy.
And maybe it was risky on the part of the Longhorns. After all, when Kocher was asked if this was the most she had played in awhile, she offered slyly, "Yeah. You could say that."
But it was near impossible to tell. The Longhorns hit .364 in the second set, and then recorded just two hitting errors while throwing down at a crushing .464 percentage in the decisive third.
"I was very impressed," head coach Jerritt Elliott said. "People have to step up on different nights. I'm just really proud of Michelle. She's played a big role before, and she's had to be a back-up this season.
"This was a big-time opportunity, and she stepped up and wasn't fazed."
In that way, Kocher embodied the Longhorns and their high-powered offense. Even with a substantial height difference between Kocher and Engle, who finished with 23 assists, the rhythm flourished as the match wore on.
Players adjusted during points, and played off of one another.
But isn't that just what special teams do, when seasons are about each other and not numbers or accolades?
"Anybody at any time can come in -- we can change that lineup," junior Juliann Faucette said. "It shows what we can do."
It also shows what the Longhorns can do, when seasons are about "relationships."