Seniors aim for fourth straight Final Four

Chris Hummer

When the four members of the recruiting class of 2008 came to the 40 Acres, they were a mixed bunch, hailing from all over the country, including Hawaii, Ohio, Illinois and Texas.

Despite their geographical differences, for Texas’ benefit, the group came together quickly. Rachael Adams, Amber Roberson, Sydney Yogi and Michelle Kocher have had one of the most successful runs on the court by a class in Texas history. They have appeared in three Final Fours in as many years and have a chance to make it four in a row this season as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s pretty special. It’s very rare for a class to go to four Final Fours in four years.” Kocher said. “We’re an interesting bunch coming from all parts of the world, so we have a good mix and get along real well and I feel that really helps us on the court.”

When the four players entered the doors of Gregory Gym their freshman year, there were high expectations, but it’s hard for them to believe that they have accomplished as much as they have.

“I came here with the intent of winning championships, and that is part of the reason why I picked Texas, because I believed [head coach] Jerritt [Elliott] and the rest of the coaching staff was capable of winning a championship,” Yogi said.

Winning championships is something they have certainly done. This year’s senior class has won three Big 12 titles. However, they still have their eyes set on a more meaningful banner to hang in Gregory, bigger than the ones commemorating the Big 12 championships and the Final Four appearances.

“I still feel that there is plenty of room for at least one or two more banners up there,” Roberson said with a grin, looking up at the empty space next to the program’s sole national championship banner.

Even if the senior class doesn’t accomplish their goal, the impact that they have made on the program has already been felt. Texas volleyball has taken a clear step forward in its level of play and in recruiting since their arrival, as evidenced by the 2011 recruiting class that includes three of the top 15 recruits in the nation.

“It’s definitely crazy to think that’s what we’ve done because we walk around thinking it’s normal, but really it’s not,” Roberson said. “We have to take a step back and realize this is what you are doing and what you have done for the program. It’s nice to know everyone appreciates that.”

Their time here is not quite through and they would still like to accomplish the group’s ultimate goal.

“Winning a national championship would be a huge accomplishment. We’ve taken a step each year as far as growing as a team and this is the year to put it all together. It would be the ultimate conclusion to our four years here,” Roberson said.

Lighting the tower orange would be the sweetest reward of all for the lumps and bruises these four seniors have taken to make themselves better.

“It would show how much our hard work pays off,” Yogi said. “We have stayed all summer the past three summers training early in the morning and doing things on our own to get better. I think the reward of winning a national championship will be so, so sweet, showing that our hard work in our time here did pay off.”

Printed on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 as: Texas trying to reach fourth straight Final Four