By Saturday night, any doubts about whether Texas is still a dominant force in volleyball were extinguished. Not surprisingly, the "gazelles" absolutely dominated the Burnt Orange Classic.
Against TCU, McNeese State, and Houston, Texas needed only nine sets to start off its season 3-0. On Friday, the Horned Frogs were able to stay afloat in the first set before losing pace to a swift Longhorn attack. The following day, the Cougars and Cowgirls put up fights against a burnt orange onslaught. In their first set, Houston fought hard for nineteen points, the worst damage done to the Longhorns all weekend. The greatest demonstration of Texas’ dominance was that at seventy minutes, Houston survived ten minutes longer than either McNeese state or TCU.
I won’t pretend to be knowledgeable about volleyball but I will throw out my unqualified observations anyway. Even to the uneducated eye, Texas’ height advantage allowed them to control the net outright. The Daily Texan pointed out that the Longhorns enjoyed a four-inch height advantage against McNeese State. That four-inch difference resulted in fifty kills and only one blocked shot for the gazelles. In response to the Horns aggressiveness at the net, opponents found success in short lobs over Texas’ wall. Bringing the second line closer returned the momentum in Texas’ favor.
Juliann Faucette was simply incredible in all three games. The outside-hitter recorded thirty-seven kills. Faucette's rocket serve dictates the tempo of the game. The student section provides a great vantage point to watch her serve drop over the net just like a breaking ball. A successful return requires a lightning fast analysis of its speed, height, and spin that is beyond the abilities of most collegiate players. Her powerful spike is equally impressive and lethal. Also of note is the senior All-American's leadership.
Freshman setter Hannah Allison clearly benefited from coming to campus early. She looked like a veteran on her way to racking up 107 assists. She demonstrated her diversity in the final game, recording a kill, a block, two service aces, four digs, and thirty-one assists. What stood out was her uncanny understanding of her teammates timing. At every opportunity, she set the ball perfectly for the hitter in the best position to make a play. Her connection with Faucette—even with her back turned—was McCoy-Shipley-esque.
Sophomore Sha’Dare McNeal’s aggressive play was a joy to watch. The same goes with Sydney Yogi, who plays with nothing short of reckless abandon. The 5’2’’ libero throws herself at volleys that seem out of reach, only to unbelievably keep them in play. It takes an intense love of the game to throw your body--without hesitation--at the floor that frequently in a game. While Faucette never removes her game-face, Sydney laughs off the bad plays and screams the loudest at the good ones. It creates a good ying-yang combination in the huddle.
The Horns kick off the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational in Gregory Gym this Thursday. They will face tougher opposition as they host No. 6 Illinois and No. 25 Long Beach State this weekend.