Faucette provides spark as others sit with injuries

Shabab Siddiqui

“Fear the Faucette” may be the most appropriate saying to write on a sign for tonight as eighth-ranked Texas (19-5, 14-2 Big 12) faces off against Missouri (19-8, 11-6) at 6:30 p.m. inside Gregory Gym.

The senior outside hitter and team co-captain has been on a tear as the Longhorns’ season approaches its final lap. The San Diego native has strung together averages of 27.3 kills per match on .389 hitting, to go along with 9.67 digs and 1.67 blocks. On Monday, she earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors for the second time this season for her performances at Baylor and Texas Tech last week.

“[Juliann’s] been playing really well,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “It’s how she’s doing it. Her attack selection has really changed, her feet to the ball is a lot better, and her confidence is a lot better.”

Faucette, who is also on the Academic All-Big 12 second team, has stepped up in place of injured teammates with some great setting.

“[The situation] just calls for me to step up and [junior setter Michelle] Kocher’s setting great right now,” Faucette said. “It’s kind of just panning out that way. It’s definitely me wanting to go out there and win the game.”

Texas played its last two games without junior outside hitter Amber Roberson, the latest victim on a laundry list of injuries the team has faced through the season. With their second leading scorer out, Faucette shouldered a lot of the scoring burden, posting a career-high 30 kills against the Bears in an emotion-filled match that included plenty of jawing with the referees. Three nights later, she posted 24 kills against the Red Raiders in Lubbock.

Even with Faucette’s offensive showcase and Roberson’s injury, the team has managed to maintain the much-coveted offensive balance Elliott has preached about since the beginning of the year, as the team continues to get double digit kills from senior middle blocker Jennifer Doris, sophomore utility player Sha’Dare McNeal and junior middle blocker Rachael Adams.

“It’s all pretty much coming together full circle from the beginning of our season to now,” Faucette said. “With just the ups and downs we’ve had, everyone has seen our chemistry grow. Supporting each other and getting to know each other off the court is really showing on the court.”

With Roberson listed as day-to-day, senior outside hitter Lauren Dickson has stepped into the starting role. The University of Virginia transfer and Westlake High School graduate operated primarily as a serving specialist until these last two games. Dickson notched eight kills and 11 digs against Texas Tech on Saturday.

“She’s a great player,” Doris said. “She’s such a good contributor with her defense. It’s fun to play against her, but to see her get her shot and see her shine. We’re so happy for her.”

The Longhorns hope to extend their winning streak against a Missouri team that is boasting its own six-game tear. Texas has also dropped a set in each of its last three matches. Doris said that has more to do with the team’s own mishaps rather than being overmatched.

“It all boils down to taking care of our side of the net,” Doris said. “Our errors ultimately gave them the set. So as long as we take care of our own responsibility, we’ll be fine.”