The Texas Longhorns have posted a 4-1 record to begin the 2017 season, with their only loss so far coming against Florida in their first match back. Since then, the team has warmed up to one another, winning out the matches they have competed in.
The beginning of the season is a tough time for the players and coaching staff, as the program just lost some top players that have helped the team throughout the past four years, while also bringing in fresh talent that brightens the next four.
“The team is beginning to figure out their roles,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “Ashley [Shook] is just beginning to become comfortable with the offense and Lexi [Sun] is playing up to a high-level.”
Both Shook and Sun are incoming freshmen to the program this season, with Shook jumping into the setting role, replacing Chloe Collins this season. Sun was named as the Gatorade National Player of the Year and is making strides already in the Longhorn offense, having put down 56 kills already, while also pickup up 37 digs and 15 total blocks.
“You never know how they are going to acclimate, to the speed of it. But when you recruit high-level athletes that have played a lot of international volleyball, they come in more acclimated to the game,” said Elliott.
On top of having these two young players join the team, the Longhorns welcome back Chiaka Ogbogu, who took the 2016 season off to focus on her academics. So far this season, Ogbogu has blocked 31 balls, making blocking a huge focus in the Texas defense.
“If you look at our blocking numbers, it is going to become a huge part of our defensive scheme,” said Elliott.
Elliott is looking in the long run for the Longhorns, keeping their preseason schedule tough so they are mature and stable come tournament time. This has been true this season as they took on #5 Nebraska and #12 Florida in the first week of play and also #17 San Diego in week two.
Up next on the docket for the Longhorns is the American Campus Classic, which is a host tournament for Texas. They will take on Denver while also competing against the #1 ranked team in Minnesota. The match between Minnesota is one that Elliott is looking forward to as it will create an uncomfortable situation for both teams, furthering their skill.