Engle-Hooker connection advances Volleyball in NCAA postseason
Dec. 4, 2009
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- The ending couldn't have been scripted any better, but in a way Ashley Engle predicted it.
With the second-ranked Texas Longhorns holding match point, Engle looked at fellow senior Destinee Hooker and said, mostly with her eyes, "You're getting the last point at Gregory Gym."
Engle set Hooker once, but TCU sent the ball back over the net. Hooker didn't waste another opportunity, knifing Engle's next set through the teeth of the Horned Frogs' defense, giving the Longhorns a victory and sending them on to the NCAA Regional Semifinals next week in Omaha, Neb.
"It's a great finish to have in Gregory Gym," Hooker says. "I was honored that Ashley gave me that last ball of the match."
Even though the Longhorns celebrated their senior class last week in the regular-season conclusion against Kansas, Friday night was another appropriate send-off.
Already with the best winning percentage of any class in program history, the senior trio of Engle, Hooker and Heather Kisner has now played 15 postseason matches. When they play in their 16th next week at Omaha's Qwest Center, they'll own that record as well.
"It's been such a great ride. I know that the Kansas match was Senior Night, but since we did get to have these last two matches, it was great to be able to put together a good one for our fans," Engle says. "I knew I wanted to give it to Destinee. It was our last point in Gregory Gym, so that was a given."
Hooker led all hitters with 21 kills, and added 13 digs for the 22nd double-double of her career, and ninth on the season. Engle contributed 30 assists and nine kills, while Kisner anchored the defense with 10 digs.
Now, the Longhorns go on the road with the goal of fighting their way through the bracket, and ending up among college volleyball's final four in Tampa, Fla. UT is looking for its second-straight appearance in the NCAA Semifinals for the first time since the Longhorns went three years in a row from 1986-1988.
It would be another fitting conclusion to the storied careers of Engle, Hooker and Kisner.
"They won the Big 12 outright. They want to take the Final Four, and there would be nothing more gratifying for me as a coach," UT coach Jerritt Elliott says. "We've been before, but this class wants it really bad, and they have an opportunity to experience what that is like.
"I really enjoy being around these seniors. They mean a lot to me. They are just great people and they will always be a part of my family's life and our Texas Volleyball family."