Texas Volleyball triumphs in Louisville and brings NCAA Division I National Championship home
Dec. 17, 2012
Elissa Schneiderman, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas--Texas Volleyball has become something of a regular in the NCAA Final Four, making appearances in four of the last five years. But for the first time since 1988, the Longhorns are bringing the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball national championship trophy home to Austin. With a 3-0 sweep over Oregon Saturday night, UT earned its third national championship and second NCAA title.
After the game, head coach Jerritt Elliott called the experience of winning his first national championship as a coach "surreal" and said he was proud of his team. He pointed to his veteran leadership, especially junior setter Hannah Allison, senior utility Sha'Dare McNeal and junior All-America outside hitter Bailey Webster.
"I've been to this thing a lot of times, and finally we've broken through," Elliott said. "But we've broken through because of what this program stood for. I've always believed that we've been doing it the right way and sometimes you need to get lucky."
But luck didn't seem to have much to do with it, with UT posting a .438 hitting percentage in the match and giving away only four attacking errors.
Oregon head coach Jim Moore congratulated Texas and commended their play in Saturday's match.
"(Texas) blocked great, passed great, and they deserve it," Moore said. "(It was) a well earned victory for them."
Late in the third set, leading the match 2-0 and the set 23-18, Texas emerged from an Oregon timeout with signature composure. While fans were already celebrating a victory, the Longhorns knew their job wasn't done yet. The Ducks registered the first point after the timeout, but UT remained patient. A decisive kill by McNeal moved UT into match point position.
The national championship match for the Longhorns was all about tireless blocking, with Texas out-blocking Oregon 15-1, so it was fitting for the Horns to capture their title on a definitive block by junior setter Hannah Allison and sophomore middle blocker Khat Bell. As soon as the ball hit the floor, confetti filled the air.
The Longhorns earned an NCAA championship by playing with balance and as a unified team.
"I just felt like we did the whole thing together," said Webster, who was named the tournament's most outstanding player. "I think we really won this because we were such a team out there. I think that was the most important thing."
Saturday's win inspired Elliott to reflect on his team's progress this season. He mentioned the adversity his team faced early in the fall, including losses at Penn State, at home against Minnesota and at home against Illinois in early September.
"We had a rough stretch in the beginning of the year," Elliott said."We were trying to figure out our lineups, but we always believed. And the great thing about coaching is that if you're in it enough, and you have enough experience, you can be patient because you know what you'll get in the end."
Elliott said he knew his team had all the pieces required to make a solid run in the tournament, but they needed to build confidence in their abilities and trust in the program. He made important changes and his team earned their 19th conference title.
"This team got into a zone and there was a lot of confidence," Elliott said. "We have got great balance and team play and we've got some amazing athletes. But the great thing about this team and our program is that our athletes continue to get better volleyball IQs."
Equally important, Elliott said his team learned to manage their game play, make smart tactical decisions and eliminate errors.
"They learned how to take good quality swings, be patient, put a tremendous amount of pressure on teams and make them be great the entire night," Elliott said. "And this is where the team has grown. Our management of our game has become significantly better because of our girls buying in and the things that we've been teaching them in our gym."