Fifth ranked Texas Volleyball enters
Dante's Rings of Hell the Nike Big Four Volleyball Classic Friday in pursuit of its 1001th win. To earn it, the Horns will have to battle #1 Penn State, #2 Stanford, and #4 Florida. Whoever named it the "Big Four" tournament wasn’t messing around. In the first month of the season, #5 Texas will have played the top four national squads. The winner—really the survivor—of the tournament should emerge as the national favorite to start the regular season.
In a weekend of big matchups, the local story will be Texas’ shot to earn revenge against the Nittany Lions. You might remember that Texas was up two sets on Penn State in the NCAA Championship before losing three in a row. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Penn State, the first choice for any volleyball recruit, travels to Gainesville armed with Deja McClendon and Blair Brown. The two hitters have combined for 130 kills in only eighteen sets. Brown, a 6’5’’ Senior, spent her summer training with the US National Team. Setting for the Lions will be handled by Kristen Carpenter. Alyssa D’Errico will don the opposite jersey at libero. With fifteen service aces, D’Errico is no slouch behind the line either.
Stanford ‘s Alix Klineman was a second-team All American last season. This year, her senior season, she is averaging 4.77 kills per game. Texas’ front line will have to reduce her impact to stay competitive.
Florida may be 5-0, but they haven’t exactly been dominating their opposition. They only have 26 more kills, 19 more assists, and 17.5 more blocks than their sub-par opponents.Florida has operated a spike-by –committee approach led by Kelly Murphy, Callie Rivers, and Kristy Jaeckel.
There is good and bad news going into this weekend, I’ll try to lay out the important ones.
Good News: Texas has been ranked in the top ten for sixty-one straight weeks and the top five for thirty-four weeks.
Bad News: Texas dropped from #2 to #5 this week after being swept by Illinois on Friday.
Good News: Juliann Faucette has seventy kills in 20 sets.
Bad News: Illinois’ success resulted from dealing with her normally deadly spikes.
Good News: With 208 sets on the season, Hannah Allison is playing like a veteran. Based on this interview, she seems like a down-to-earth girl too.
Bad News: This weekend will be a remarkably tough challenge for any freshman. She is about to be Gilberted, for lack of a better term.
Good News: Unlike Stanford, Texas has already been challenged this season.
Bad News: Unlike Texas’ early opponents, Stanford has four players over 6’4’’ including 6’6’’ outside hitter Hayley Spelman.
Good News: Texas will have a height advantage over Florida, the weekend’s easiest opponent.
Bad News: Easiest is relative, as the tournament will be played in always-rowdy Gainesville.
Good News: Rachel Adams, Sha’Dare McNeal, and Jennifer Doris are racking up the blocks.
Bad News: The Gators, Lions, and Cardinal are significantly more athletic than the McNeese State….. whatever those girls called themselves.
Good News: Freshman Sarah Palmer performed well in her first sets in Gregory. She will likely replace fellow Hawaiian Sydney Yogi at Libero in two seasons.
Bad News: To play their preferred tempo, the Longhorns will need stellar play off the bench. Even Yogi becomes worn-out from throwing herself at the floor all weekend. Palmer looked strong enough to hop in and give Sydney a breather.