McNeal's return brings balance to No. 10 Volleyball
Oct. 13, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Longhorns unveiled a new look for Wednesday night’s victory against Texas Tech, but was also a comfortably familiar one.
Junior Sha’Dare McNeal appeared in the starting lineup for the first time since the season-opening match against Pepperdine on Aug. 26.
“The nerves were definitely there, and it has been an adjustment in learning to trust my knee,” McNeal said.
McNeal has been in the lineup since the Longhorns took on the Oklahoma Sooners more than two weeks ago, but her return Wednesday to the full rotation provided UT with more than the eight digs and six kills her stat line showed after the sweep victory. McNeal provides the Longhorns with defensive poise and another offensive threat that defenses can’t ignore.
In a word, McNeal brings UT balance.
Five Longhorns had at least 10 attack attempts against the Red Raiders, and McNeal’s presence pulled a blocker away from Rachael Adams in the middle. Adams had seven kills on 10 swings against Tech.
“Ultimately we were able to get a lot of players in tonight and see them play, and I was very happy about that,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said.
The Red Raiders, winless in conference play, were served onto their heels, with the Longhorns totaling a season-high nine service aces. That aggression from the service line -- Sydney Yogi and Sarah Palmer each had three aces -- set up UT’s offense. UT finished with only three team blocks, but the Longhorns intimidated around the net and used 43 digs to initiate their attack.
“We were disrupting a lot of balls. There weren’t a lot of balls hit to the wood (by Tech),” Elliott said. “Our serving did a nice job getting them off the net.”
The victory was UT’s 28th in a row at Gregory Gym in Big 12 play, but it should ultimately be remembered as the match the Longhorns returned to full strength. Since losing McNeal to the knee injury in August, Elliott has finagled his lineups so that his team can compete while also “getting healthy.”
With McNeal back in for all six rotations, the Longhorns can start to work on consistent cohesion and expanded offensive options.
“It feels great being back on the court and supporting my teammates. It's been kind of a challenge, but everyday getting in the practice gym has helped me get back to where I was,” McNeal said.