Texas rests up before TCU match

Justin Martinez

Everybody needs a vacation from time to time, and such is the case for the No. 5 Longhorns as they reach the halfway mark of their season. Texas is currently on a seven-day break — the longest stretch without a match on its schedule.

Although the team is looking to rest up for the second half of its season, the Longhorns understand the importance of staying game-ready.

“In the beginning of this week there wasn’t pressure because we didn’t play on Wednesday,” freshman setter Ashley Shook said. “But it’s still all about creating that environment in practice every day where we know we have to continuously get better.”

Texas enters the break as the hottest team in the Big 12, riding a five-game win streak that includes four sweeps. The Longhorns boast the Big 12’s best hitting percentage (.338) and still hold an unblemished 3–0 record in conference play.

“Every facet of our game has been improving,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “But there’s still some areas that we need to work on. We’re making strides though.”

The Longhorns’ most recent victory came at home on Sept. 30 against Kansas State. Texas imposed its will in the 3-0 sweep, never trailing throughout the match.

Sophomore Micaya White served up a team-high 14 kills to go along with 10 digs in the win. The 2016 AVCA All-America first-team honoree has recorded three double-doubles in the past five matches.

“(White) is doing a really nice job,” Elliott said. “She’s playing with a different demeanor and a different passion to be excellent.”

Shook’s play of late has been the catalyst for Texas’ success. The 2017 No. 6 overall elite recruit has flourished in her new surroundings, feeding the Longhorn hitters with an array of precision sets.

Shook had her strongest showing of the season last week, recording 69 assists and 19 digs in Texas’ two sweeps over Baylor and Kansas State. Those efforts were recognized on Monday when the Big 12 named Shook as the conference freshman

player of the week — her first time receiving the honor.

“(Shook) is a weapon,” Elliott said. “She’s a great blocker, she plays great defense and she can set the ball really well. As she gets more comfortable, we’re starting to see her ability take over a match, and that helps us out a lot.”

Following their time off, the Longhorns are now ready to get back to work as Texas heads to Fort Worth on Sunday for a matchup with TCU. The Horned Frogs enter the contest as losers of three of their last four, but the Longhorns know better than to overlook a conference foe.

“I think it’s going to be a good game,” Shook said. “I know that they’re going to come and give us their best shot, so we’ll have to approach it like any other game and just get ready for a battle.”