National Championship moments: 1981 Volleyball
The University of Texas women's volleyball program blossomed into a national powerhouse in just two years under head coach Mick Haley. In 1981, he led the Longhorns to a volleyball national title as the Longhorns won the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national title.
Texas' steamrolled through the season and finished with a 60-6-1 record, a Southwest Conference (SWC) championship, Texas AIAW title and finally the AIAW national crown.
After cruising through the Region 4 tournament, the Longhorns earned a berth in the AIAW National Championship in Tallahassee, Fla. Texas went unscathed in the first two matches, beating Pittsburgh (15-6, 15-7, 15-10) and Michigan (15-11, 15-2, 15-7). The competition stiffened in the third match as Utah State took Texas to four games, but UT conquered the Aggies by a score of 15-8, 15-12, 10-15, 15-11. A trend began to develop in their semifinal match as the Longhorns would fall behind in each of their final three contests. In the semifinal against host Florida State, UT fell behind the Seminoles, dropping the first game, 15-12. The Horns evened the match with a 15-3 walkthrough in the second game, but FSU stormed back to win the third game 15-5. With its back to the wall, Texas rebounded to win the fourth game, 15-11, and finished the Seminoles off with a 15-12 triumph in the finale to reach the championship series against Portland State.
Texas and Portland State played a pair of epic matches in the championship series. In the first match, UT fell behind 2-0 with the Vikings winning 15-12 and 15-11. The Longhorns clawed back into the match, posting a 15-11 win in game three and a 15-13 victory in game four to set up a fifth game. The burnt orange prevailed in the final game, 15-12. In the second match, Texas got the early lead with a 15-6 win in the first game, but PSU prevailed in the next two games, 15-4 and 15-5. The Longhorns posted an equalizing game, throttling the Vikings 15-3 to even the match at 2-2. The final game went to extra points as UT won 16-14.
The season began auspiciously for the Longhorns as they posted a win over California in the opener, but managed just a third-place finish at the Roadrunner Invitational in Las Cruces, N.M., to begin the campaign with a 6-1-1 record. The Longhorns bounced back to win a match at Texas Lutheran and earn a victory at the California Invitational, but UT stumbled at another tournament, finishing third out of eight teams at the San Jose Spartan Classic. The Horns owned a 12-3-1 record after the first month of play.
With September behind them, the Longhorns produced what still stands as the most successful month in school history as they went 27-1 and won crowns at the Cardinal Classic hosted by Lamar, the Longhorn Classic, the 12-team Oral Roberts Invitational and the SWC Championship in October.
Texas closed out its home schedule in grand fashion - winning its second consecutive SWC crown. The first match pitted the Longhorns against Houston and Texas easily won with scores of 15-4, 15-2, 16-14. Paced by the setting of Sally Schlobohm, who was selected to the All-SWC first team, the Longhorns won the next nine consecutive games to clinch first place. The tournament culminated in a match with Texas A&M. Texas struggled throught the first game, 16-14, but the power hitting of outside attacker Jo Beth Palmer, another first-team All-SWC selection, and middle blocker Jenny Hayes led the Longhorn team effort to win the last two games 15-9, 15-2. The Longhorns had three women named second-team All-SWC, including Hayes, Leslie Lucas and middle blocker Nell Fortner.
November started out shaky with the Longhorns dropping their second match to UC Santa Barbara and also dropping a match against Arizona at the UCLA Invitational to begin the month with a 6-2 mark.
The Horns had their final tune-up for the AIAW Championship as they participated in the Texas AIAW State Championship in Arlington, Texas. Texas was pushed to the brink in its initial match against Texas Tech but posted a 15-5, 1-15, 15-7, 10-15, 15-10 win. The Horns finished off the tournament with four-game wins over UT Arlington and Lamar.
The Longhorns returned to Arlington for the AIAW Region 4 Championships. The Burnt Orange walked through the first three games of the tournament, winning by a combined 6-0 in games and 90-42 in points to post victories over New Orleans, Texas Tech and Lamar in best-of-three action. As the tournament stepped up to best-of-five play, the Horns beat Oral Roberts in three games and posted back-to-back wins over UT Arlington, triumphing in three games in the first match and four games in the second.
Texas featured four All-Americans, but only two won the distinction on the volleyball court. Schlobohm and Hayes were each named to the AIAW All-America team. Palmer earned All-America distinction in the discus as a member of the Longhorns' track and field team. Freshman middle blocker Sharon Neugebauer started what would end up as one of the most decorated careers in the history of the program. She also earned All-America honors in her first season as a member of UT's national champion 3,200-meter relay team. Junior outside attacker Katrina Dornseifer was named the team's MVP for the year.