Now that finals have mercifully ended on the 40 Acres, it’s time to enjoy a well deserved vacation. What better way to start off break than some Texas Volleyball? After rolling past UCLA and Texas-San Antonio in last weekend’s series, Texas will host Illinois, Florida, and Purdue in Gregory Gym.
In the opener tonight, Texas will have to shake off its demons against No. 8 Illinois. The Illini swept the Longhorns at home in September. It was a dreadful night for the Horns, as they looked completely out of sync. That loss was the start of a rough patch for the Horns in which they lost four out of five in two weeks. In their defense, they had to do battle with Stanford and Florida in that period. Since then, the Horns have won twenty of their last twenty one and performed close to the level of last year’s squad.
Even though the Horns are back on track, they’ve got a tough weekend ahead. Florida and Purdue will play at 5:00 and then the Horns will play the Illini at 7:00. The will have to make a quick turnaround to play at 8:00 tomorrow night.
Illinois has a great one-two punch in outside hitters Michelle Bartsch and Colleen Ward. Ward has racked up 495 kills in thirty-two games. She is good for four kills a set, even against superior defenses. Michelle Bartsch doesn’t trail far behind with 431 kills on the season. Bartsch was an honorable mention All-American last year. Hillary Haen will handle setting for Illinois. This time around, the Illini are without Laura DeBruler, who was lost to an ACL injury. That could be a difference maker.
It’s remarkable how well the Longhorns have done this season after absorbing massive personnel losses. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Horns have consistently found a way to win. These girls have no problem with clawing their way out of big deficits. If they want to travel to Kansas City next weekend, the Horns will have to continue to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.