To get to the tip, return to the start.
“Our workforce is the deepest I’ve ever had as a coach, it’s probably the most expertise I’ve ever had,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott stated final August, three weeks earlier than the NCAA season started.
He added, “We all know we’ve the expertise. We’ve obtained 4 months to mesh them as a result of they’ve by no means performed collectively. They don’t know easy methods to play collectively but. They don’t know what their buttons are when the stress is on. They’re going to should be taught all that stuff. That’s going to be the important thing for us.”
Texas accomplished a virtually excellent season Saturday night time with its sweep of Louisville within the NCAA championship match. The one stumble in a 28-1 yr was on October 23 at Iowa State, a match through which the Longhorns dropped two units by 27-25 scores and misplaced regardless of hitting .359 and getting 13 blocks.
However that 18-25, 27-25, 12-25, 27-25, 15-10 defeat wasn’t essentially a nasty factor, famous person Logan Eggleston supplied Saturday night time. She was requested if possibly it really helped the Longhorns.
“100%. I don’t assume it’s ever good to go undefeated in a season since you don’t know easy methods to battle by means of adversity,” Eggleston stated. “I feel we discovered quite a bit about ourselves as gamers and as a workforce and thru that recreation and what we may do higher.”
The final time a workforce went unbeaten in NCAA Division I volleyball was in 2009 when Penn State went 38-0 in each 2008 and 2009. Texas is the third one-loss workforce to win since.
“I feel if we hadn’t have misplaced that recreation, I don’t know that a number of the conversations we had and a number of the areas that we improved on would have occurred,” Eggleston stated.
“So I’m truthfully actually grateful that we hit that form of roadblock in the course of the season as a result of it made us so significantly better all through the tip.”
The bigs, in fact, obtained theirs for Texas within the 25-22, 25-14, 26-24 victory over Louisville, which, it could’t be overstated, was a unbelievable school volleyball workforce. Eggleston had 19 kills, Madisen Skinner — who received the NCAA title for Kentucky when it beat Texas within the spring 2021 ultimate –12, Asjia O’Neal 9 and Molly Phillips six. Between them simply eight errors in 98 assaults.
However the littles?
They had been unbelievable. Zoe Fleck transferred from UCLA for simply this and on the largest stage the 5-foot-6 libero with the wild hair and no regard for her physique had 14 digs, 5 assists and two aces. Freshman Emma Halter performed like something however because the 5-5 DS had 5 digs and 11 serve-receive makes an attempt with no errors.
“Emma, she doesn’t know,” Elliott stated. “She’s a freshman. She’s simply nails.”
And when it got here all the way down to the final play, so was Keonilei Akana, who rocketed a walk-off ace.
The 5-9 Akana only a yr earlier performed for Nebraska for the nationwide championship when the Huskers misplaced in 5 to Wisconsin and he or she had an ace and 24 digs. In 2021 she led Nebraska with 42 aces, a whopping seven when the Huskers ousted Texas from the NCAA Event.
She completed this season with 34 aces, second solely to Eggleston, and, in fact, none larger than that final one.
Elliott claimed he known as it.
“I stated she has ice in her veins and he or she’s going to get an ace. That’s particularly what I stated. I could have thrown another phrase in there.
“However she’s simply been nails on a regular basis. She’s powerful as nails. So she hit that serve. To serve that ball on this magnitude of a stage, hit it the way in which she did, she hit it clear, which is what we at all times speak about, no spin and a ton of velocity, plenty of stress.
“That’s what so nice about this workforce. Different individuals can carry one another and make factors and make runs.”
This Texas workforce was a delight. From this finish, fabulous, clever and articulate youngsters to interview. Gamers like Eggleston and O’Neal, who made an impression off the courtroom. Folks like Fleck, who at apply Wednesday veered off the courtroom to shake arms and see how issues had been going. Clearly nice volleyball gamers.
And a coach who has taken a lot criticism for not profitable all of it for a decade with workforce after workforce bursting with a lot expertise.
As an apart, you wish to know even another reason why our sport is best than theirs?
About an hour and a half earlier than Saturday’s match — Saturday’s national-championship match! — I sat down early on press row to do some story prep. Elliott noticed me, walked throughout the ground, pulled up a chair, and we shot the bull for some time. His spouse, Andrea, joined us. Maintain your breath ready for that to occur in soccer or basketball.
Anyway, this was our change within the post-match information convention Saturday night time.
“Jerritt, we’ve talked about this during the last decade, and I’ve teased you as a result of whenever you received 10 years in the past you sat up there and also you seemed like dying, such as you simply completed a marathon. Tonight, comparatively talking, you look fairly relaxed and fairly good. How do you’re feeling personally?”
“Yeah, I’m relieved. I’m so grateful. I’m honored to be the one which obtained to teach with these girls. I’m honored to be the one who leads this program. I’m honored that Chris Plonsky, who’s sitting within the again, employed me and believed in me after I was moist behind the years at 32 years outdated or 31.
“I don’t assume individuals perceive how exhausting it’s to get to a nationwide championship. You principally spend each dwelling second fascinated by what your program wants, the changes, the work of touring and recruiting, the administration of not solely your workforce and your workers however the 80 individuals beneath that for the aim of profitable a championship for the college. My aim coming in was to make this model higher and to usher in empowered girls and get them higher.
“I feel, to your query, we do plenty of speaking with our gamers. And we educate them easy methods to talk, inform them they’ll come into our room and be mad at me, be upset at me, however most significantly, there’s plenty of good individuals surrounding them.
“All people that I rent are nice folks that love individuals. I feel that’s a extremely huge factor. However for me, that is simply — I’m ecstatic inside. I’m nonetheless numb, I can’t consider we really did it as a result of we’ve been pushing for therefore a few years. I believed that we had been going to do it in the present day. However I’m simply so pleased for our gamers and our workers.”
What he stated.
GUCCI, ADIDAS AND BUSBOOM KELLY: It’s unsuitable, particularly when there’s a double normal, of paying attention to what girls coaches put on. However on this case, it merely needed to be requested, as a result of Louisville’s Dani Busboom Kelly was sporting an Adidas jacket specifically made for her by Gucci.
Speak about stylin.’
“It goes again to final yr with Anna Stevenson being obsessive about what I’m sporting for no matter purpose,” Busboom Kelly stated. “It’s form of been a factor.
“Adidas got here right here and shocked me with this jacket.”
She stated they gave it to her on Thursday, hoping Louisville would win and he or she may put on it within the championship match.
“So right here I’m.
“It’s a bit of tight. Not tremendous comfy, however I used to be fairly shocked. It was fairly cool.”
THE OHIO STATE FACTOR: It was uncanny how there have been six levels of Buckeye separation within the NCAA final-four weekend.
Texas opened the season with back-to-back wins at Ohio State, sweeping the Buckeyes on August 26 earlier than profitable in 4 the subsequent day. A number of days earlier than that, I solely semi-jokingly texted Ohio State coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg that Texas and Ohio State would play for the nationwide title in December.
On September 3, Louisville dealt San Diego its solely defeat till the Toreros misplaced to Texas on Thursday within the nationwide semifinals. The following day, Ohio State received in 4 at Louisville. Louisville solely misplaced twice extra, at Pittsburgh after which to Texas on Saturday.
After which the Saturday earlier than final, within the regional ultimate in Austin, Texas beat Ohio State. Was it for the nationwide title? Ohio State may make that declare. Why not?
That, nevertheless, was a volleyball lifetime in the past for Ohio State. Since then, the faculty world was surprised with the information that 4 of its starters, setter Mac Podraza, libero Kylie Murr, outdoors Gabby Gonzalez and outdoors Jenaisya Moore have entered the NCAA switch portal. All 4 had been seniors this yr who’ve performed 4 seasons and, due to COVID, have a yr remaining.
Podraza advised me it’s strictly a scholarship availability situation and that the nationwide narrative rubs her the unsuitable means. Accordingly, she and Flynn Oldenburg will be a part of me for a Zoom on Monday to handle the problem.
LOGAN’S LEGACY: The final phrase goes to Elliott.
“To change into one of many greats in any sport you’ve obtained to win a championship. And Logan did that now. So she places herself on a particularly elite stage together with the remainder of the gamers.
“However for what she’s executed for this college, what she’s executed to benefit from each useful resource attainable, what she’s given in each facet, I wouldn’t be shocked if we’ve a statue sooner or later for her someplace on campus.”
Eggleston was the VolleyballMag.com nationwide participant of the yr in 2021. There’s an excellent probability she is going to repeat when our All-American groups are introduced later within the week. She was named the AVCA nationwide participant of the yr on Friday.
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