Sept. 12, 2009

Courtesy of Texas

AUSTIN, Texas – The No. 2 Texas Volleyball team raised a pair of new banners to the rafters of Gregory Gymnasium and posted a 3-0 victory over the Italian National A2 Team, Friday night as UT opened its home slate. Prior to the 25-17, 25-18, 25-23 win, the Horns unveiled their 2008 Big 12 Champion and NCAA Semifinalist banners to a crowd of 2,384 at Gregory Gymnasium.

In the first set, Texas used two kills and an early ace by senior All-America outside hitter Destinee Hooker to grab a 7-1 edge. A 6-1 run fueled by two Hooker kills widened the margin to 14-5 and it was not until the 19-10 mark that Texas committed its first hitting error of the set. Freshman outside hitter Bailey Webster helped the Horns close the door with two kills late in the set that lifted UT to a 25-17 win.

The Italians kept the score close in the second, tying the set at seven before a 4-0 Texas run capped by a kill from sophomore outside hitter Amber Roberson move the lead to 16-11. Italy answered with three straight points, but the Longhorns bounced back with two Hooker aces that closed out the frame, 25-18.

Texas struggled early in the third stanza, allowing Italy to push its lead to 15-10 in the early going. A 9-2 Longhorns’ run paced by five Italian miscues allowed UT to forge ahead 20-18, but Italy answered by tying the set at 20. Texas regained the advantage, but Italy responded to tie the set twice before they made a final charge with the score knotted at 23. A kill by junior All-America outside hitter Juliann Faucette and an attack error by Italy closed out the set with UT taking a 25-23 victory.

Senior All-America setter Ashley Engle paced the Horns’ offense on the night with 19 assists, five kills and three digs, while Hooker posted a team-high nine kills on .375 hitting and registered three service aces. Webster added seven kills in the win and senior libero Heather Kisner led the defense with 10 digs.

The Longhorns return to action on Saturday, Sept. 12 when they close out their two-match series with the Italian National A2 Team. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.

Head coach Jerritt Elliott

Opening Statement: We tried to play a lot of different people in different line-ups. We gave some quality playing time to some people who haven’t played as much. Overall, I think it was a pretty sloppy performance from us. There was a lack of concentration and we just didn’t play to the level that we are capable of. We’ve got to be able to fix that for us to be a really good team.

On tonight’s performance in the first set:  I thought we were extremely smooth. We were passing much higher than we have been passing all year.  I thought we were making good attack selections. I thought we were very smooth, but we made some uncharacteristic errors, and started losing our concentration and from there it kind of unfolded. In game one we were passing at eighty-five percent perfect pass. Game two we went down and it was just sloppy.  We missed a lot of individual assignments that affected the team systems we have and we were slow to make adjustments.

On what the team’s focus was tonight:  The focus before the match was we need to continue to put pressure on teams. Our biggest thing right now is that we come back once we’re up big.  We were up big in game one and one of our weaknesses is letting teams get back up when we are up big. When it happens once, it’s okay, but when it starts showing it’s face over and over again, it becomes concerning to a coach that it will come back to bite us.

On the different lineup:  We were just trying to get some people some playing time. Michelle (Kocher) has been doing really well in practice, and Amber (Roberson) hasn’t been getting a lot of playing time, so it is important to get her in there for some long periods of time. It is good to get Christina (Arenas) out there for the very first time at home. We kind of threw our middles in and out of the lineup.  It’s obviously some different lineups without Juliann Faucette (game two) and Destinee Hooker (game three). By the end of that match we started putting our players in the right position.

On if tonight was a good judge of depth of the bench:  We know we have depth and that we can count on Amber, she had a solid night for us, but it was a good chance for her to get experience playing with the starters because she hasn’t had too many opportunities up to this point.

On what playing an international team can bring to the University:  Hopefully, some good Italians want to come back and play for us at some point. It’s just good for the community and the Italians in the community. It’s good for us to see the international level because a lot of them want to go play professionally and there are a lot of opportunities internationally for women’s volleyball. It was good for the Italians to see the level of volleyball that we have here. I think Europeans think that volleyball on the collegiate level isn’t very strong, so it was a chance for us to show that we have good athletes and a good system here. It was great and fun, and we’re excited to do it again tomorrow.

Senior setter Ashley Engle

On how she feels about Coach Elliott’s remarks: I think he’s right. You can tell. Maybe our fans can’t really tell yet because they haven’t seen us, but we were playing some really good volleyball our last couple matches and the same focus wasn’t there. Italy is a great team. Not to take anything away from them, but we need to have the same focus coming into every match no matter who it is and I think we were sloppy. Hopefully tomorrow we can come out ready to go.

On Italy’s different playing style: They do play a little bit slower. They have a lot of high sets and I think that early on that caused us some trouble.  We just weren’t able to make the adjustments that we needed to. That’s something that we need to work on for tomorrow.

On the home game environment: It’s great. We love our fans. They’re very loyal to us and hopefully they’ll keep coming out and supporting us. Hopefully they’ll still come out tomorrow.  They’re great and hopefully we’ll have some sold out crowds this year.

On playing a European team at home: It’s great.  It’s some great exposure for them and for volleyball in general because volleyball is definitely an international sport. I think it’s great that they were able to come here and play just like we were able to go over there and play.

Senior outside hitter Destinee Hooker

On what she attributes the sloppy play to: I would just have to say our errors.  The first couple of points in the first set were money and then after that it just went downhill.  

On what caused the sloppy play after the first set: Our blocking errors and then our passing late in the game. Game three was off compared to the first game.

On her previous international experience: It helps because you see a lot of different shots and different things on the court, but my experience in Colorado Springs has been awhile and it’s actually my experience with this team here that brought me to where I am now.