Sarah Palmer plays key defensive role in Longhorns' quest for national championship
Dec. 15, 2012
Elissa Schneiderman, Texas Media Relations
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- No. 3 seed Texas Volleyball Head Coach Jerritt Elliott said he has the best libero in the country after his team's 3-2 victory over Michigan in the NCAA National Semifinals. Junior Sarah Palmer posted a career-high 31 digs in Thursday evening's win at the KFC Yum! Center, and proved to be a crucial defensive force for the Longhorns in the grueling five-set match.
The Kailua, Hawaii native has played in every game this season for the Horns and averages 3.54 digs per set in this year's NCAA Tournament.
"Sarah's made huge strides throughout this season," Elliott said. "Our staff is extremely pleased in terms of not only her play, but her personality in understanding what that role (of libero) takes and the aggressive behavior that is necessary. She's grown up a lot in that area."
Though Palmer is a defensive specialist, she's also able to tally points on the scoreboard for UT. She's a legitimate service threat, earning at least one service ace in 13 of 32 total matches this season, including a season-high two service aces in the regional final against USC on Dec. 8.
Elliott has noticed improvement not only in Palmer's skills, but also her volleyball IQ and her insight into the particulars of the libero position. Similarly, he's observed as she's transformed into a self-assured leader of his team.
"We've always know that she is very good, but now she's gotten the confidence to get out there and fly around," Elliott said. "We've seen her elevate tremendously the second half of the season. She and (senior utility) Sha'Dare (McNeal) are the biggest pieces of this team."
Palmer agrees that her confidence has increased throughout her career at Texas, but especially this season. An upshot of this improvement, she said, has been an increased aggressiveness in her play, and ultimately, her efforts boost her entire team.
"Sometimes I'll get balls I had no clue I could get before, so that drives me in the next plays," Palmer said. "(I want to) help out my teammates in whatever way possible. People always are looking at the hitters and thinking that they are the best. I'm just trying to help them look good by popping up balls here and there."
Palmer and the rest of the Longhorns will face Oregon tonight in the NCAA Championship at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. The match will begin at 7 p.m. Eastern Time (6 p.m. Central) and be broadcast live on ESPN2.