Longhorns lean on youth, White heading into season

Clark Dalton

The window of opportunity is wide open for the 2019 Texas volleyball team.

The Longhorns are looking to build off a strong campaign in 2018, when they posted a 23–5 record, clinched the Big 12 conference championship and made a deep NCAA tournament run that culminated in a regional
final appearance.

For 2019, the Longhorns are setting their sights even further and appear to be heading in the right direction. After the Orange-White scrimmage, Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott gave his team a vote
of confidence.

“Overall, I liked what I saw today,” Elliott said. “They were connected and they played hard all the way through. The things we’ve been focusing on looked pretty strong, specifically our ball control — definitely some good things to build on.”

This year, Texas is ranked No. 4 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association. The team also stands atop the Big 12 once again as a preseason favorite to win the conference.

The challenge of fulfilling this task is amplified by a daunting nonconference schedule in which the Longhorns face four ranked opponents in their first five matches. Texas plays USC, Minnesota, BYU and Stanford — the defending national champion — in the first two weeks of the season.

The 2019 roster blends incoming talent with the returning key components who have been vital in setting the groundwork for the program. The youth mixed with veteran leadership has already created an atmosphere of respecting the process.

“They’re very process-oriented,” Elliott said. “They come to work every single day. They’re making each other better, which is a big part of this process.”

Senior outside hitter Micaya White will be the driving force once again and will look to build on her season that won her Big 12 Player of the Year. Since it’s her last season, White is looking to take advantage of every opportunity and leave the Forty Acres on a high note.

“One of my major goals is to not have any regrets,” White said.

Sophomore outside hitter Logan Eggleston is also returning after an impressive freshman season. Eggleston finished the season with 312 kills and 22 aces and with Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors.

Part of the youth movement for the Longhorns are freshmen Skylar Fields and Molly Phillips. Fields was ranked as the No. 1 recruit and Phillips was ranked No. 16 by Prep Volleyball. Fields has already drawn high praise being selected as the preseason favorite to win the 2019 Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

Both Phillips and Fields played for Team USA and Elliott in the summer, helping their transition to the collegiate level.

“The benefit of getting to work with two of my freshman was a big part of that, too,” Elliott said. “Getting to know their (personalities), how much I could push them and the talks that I could have with them. So I felt like we already had a (relationship) coming into double days.”

The Longhorns have been on an upward trajectory that has lead to optimism reverberating throughout Gregory Gymnasium.

“We’re excited,” Elliott said. “We have the pieces to grow together to be good by the end of the season.”