Texas volleyball returns home for first time in 2016

Steve Helwick

For the first time this season, the Longhorns will play in front of a crowd decked in burnt orange. 

No. 3 Texas (1–1) will return home to participate in the American Campus Classic. The event commences with a double-header Thursday with Texas playing Lipscomb at noon and UTSA at 7 p.m.

“We have been looking forward to this for a whole year,” senior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame said. “We are just excited to be in Gregory and have the fans come out.”

Texas was swept 3–0 by No. 1 Nebraska in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday night. The Longhorns are the defending NCAA runner-up, but are already facing adversity in the young season.

“It was our first time being tested,” Prieto Cerame said. “We learned that we need to be a lot more focused, a lot more disciplined as a team. We’re glad that we’re being tested this early.”

The Longhorns will face four different teams over three days in their second tournament of 2016. Head coach Jerritt Elliott said he hopes to use the Nebraska loss as a learning experience before the action-packed weekend.

“We didn’t play well, we didn’t execute at all,” Elliott said. “It’s week one. We’re not happy, we’re disappointed, and we’ve [had] lots of talks with our team. We’re also getting to look where we can make adjustments — that’s what playing tough competition allows us.”

Both of Thursday’s opponents enter their matches at Gregory Gym with undefeated records. Lipscomb (3–0) has only lost two sets in its three victories this season, while UTSA (3–0) swept Little Rock and Montana and defeated SMU 3-1 in the SMU DoubleTree Classic in Dallas last weekend.

Elliott said the loss to the Cornhuskers helped him identify his team’s weaknesses. Texas struggled to keep the ball in play with its passing and made a number of self-inflicted mistakes en-route to the three-set sweep. Elliott hopes to fix those issues this weekend.

“We’ve got to solidify our passing rotations,” Elliott said. “We played well in short spurts but this game is about how well you can systematically approach the game over and over again. That’s what this weekend’s going to provide, and we’ve got some goods teams coming in.”

Texas swept UTSA 3-0 in Austin last September, but UTSA didn’t fall without challenging the Longhorns. The Roadrunners extended the first set, ultimately falling short 31-29 before pushing the burnt orange again in the second set. 

The Longhorns hope to regain their championship form on Thursday. Prieto Cerame said the team has focused on one thing heading into the double-header: execution. 

“Our coaches expect nothing but the best from us, and we expect nothing but the best from ourselves,” Prieto Cerame said. “We’re just trying to bring it back to what our alumni have set for us. We have a great weekend here with four different teams and we’re just excited to be back and keep getting better.”