Moments define Volleyball's season
Nov. 29, 2011
The Texas Longhorns find themselves on the brink of history. As the first team to earn a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed in program history, the Longhorns are seeking a fourth-straight trip to the NCAA Semifinals -- but more importantly, a national title.
The goal is set and established, and UT has also learned a season’s worth of lessons to add momentum to their march toward a championship.
TexasSports.com looks back at five defining moments of the 2011 season.
Aug. 26: UT opens 2011 season against Pepperdine
Junior Sha’Dare McNeal collapsed to the court in a painful heap during the second set and then was taken off the court with a knee injury. As UT’s best ball-control player, McNeal was the Longhorns’ glue -- the one player head coach Jerritt Elliott couldn’t afford to lose.
But as the Longhorns of last season can attest, no one cares what you can afford and what you can’t. McNeal was relegated to the bench, and the Longhorns forced to adjust and advance.
“We weren’t scared, because we knew after last year we could deal with it, but with so many freshmen, it was a matter of making sure they kept their confidence,” setter Hannah Allison said.
Sept. 20: Longhorns mesh with 5-1 offense at TCU
The Longhorns rolled to a sweep victory, and nine kills on .692 hitting was a sign of things to come for outside hitter Bailey Webster, who was just named Big 12 Player of the Year.
“That was our best match up to that point in the season,” Webster said. “Everything flowed, almost perfectly. We found a rhythm and a groove.”
Sept. 28: Sooners drop Longhorns in five sets
But with Iowa State on tap just three days later, the Longhorns didn’t have a chance to mourn.
“The way that we played was really unacceptable for us,” Webster said. “We knew we couldn’t let that happen again.”
The Longhorns responded by winning their next 14 matches, claiming a Big 12 Championship title and the program’s first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“We learned so much about ourselves after that match that we wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Allison said.
Oct. 12: McNeal returns to full rotation
“What Sha’Dare is able to do offensively, off of one foot, opens up our whole offense,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to send a blocker with her, which leaves Rachael (Adams) one-on-one and a lot of times our left side (hitters) one-on-one.”
In the 12 matches since McNeal returned to front and back row play, UT is hitting .341 as a team -- and all four of UT’s attackers are hitting at least .308.
Nov. 26: Longhorns defeat Sooners for outright league title
“Winning the Big 12 is a huge goal for us. It’s something we talk about every day in practice,” Allison said. “So having that closure was exciting for us. Being able to redeem that loss to OU was special as well.”