No. 2 Volleyball salutes its three seniors
Nov. 28, 2009
The Texas Volleyball team concluded Senior Night festivities on Saturday in appropriate fashion -- with a trophy presentation.
The second-ranked Longhorns gathered in the middle of Gregory Gym to claim their Big 12 championship trophy, after clinching the crown earlier in the week with a road win at Oklahoma.
This year the Longhorns claimed their first outright championship in more than a decade, and, to date, it stands as the perfect crowning achievement for seniors Ashley Engle, Destinee Hooker and Heather Kisner. Over the past four years, this senior trio has amassed a 104-16 record, and will ultimately exit with the highest winning percentage of any class in program history.
Behind Engle, Hooker and Kisner, the Longhorns advanced to their first NCAA Championship semifinals since 1995, and have won three-straight conference titles.
"They changed the face of this program," UT coach Jerritt Elliott says. "They returned the pride of Texas Volleyball."
And that was evident in the crowd that packed Gregory Gym to the rafters. Almost 4,000 fans were crammed into every corner, and behind every pillar, of UT's landmark gymnasium, for the regular-season finale against Kansas.
It was fitting, because the Longhorns already set a new regular-season attendance record, but also because the fans came out in droves to salute the senior class that, Elliott says, "resurrected Texas Volleyball."
They all came in with different expectations. Engle was the prize of the litter, who Elliott lured from the volleyball vestibule that is southern California. Hooker was the talented unknown from San Antonio, and Kisner is now exactly what she was when Elliott first saw her "moving all over, throwing her body around."
But the three have combined for something that transcends them. The Longhorns gathered on Sunday afternoon at Elliott's house to watch as the NCAA tournament bracket was revealed. With the nation's toughest schedule, and a 24-1 overall record, the Longhorns were already assured of one of the tournament's four No. 1 seeds.
That was the goal when Engle, Hooker and Kisner landed on campus four years ago, and it's reality now.
Before the Senior Night match against Kansas, Elliott sent all three of them text messages that thanked them all for choosing Texas. Elliott confesses that he and the coaching staff have been "lucky" to work with this senior class over the years.
"They are great leaders, and they have taught the underclassmen what it means to be a Texas Longhorn," Elliott says. "They have left a legacy that will never be forgotten. We want to finish this season on a positive note for them."