Texas is just one week into the season, and it has already displayed its wealth of underclassmen who have earned starting spots and plentiful playing time. Yet, as the team dives headfirst into the toughest section of this year’s schedule, it will be a group of seniors that lead the way into pressure-packed matchups.
In the season’s first two games, senior outside hitter Micaya White and senior libero Claire Hahn brought veteran leadership and experience to the table. The seniors are clear leaders on a Longhorn squad that will need their presence against Texas’ brutal schedule.
With a national championship, a plethora of conference championships and 18 winning seasons under his belt, Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott knows the value of in-game experience.
“In volleyball, you need a lot more experience with the eyes to see the game at a different level because of the way the game is played,” Elliott said in his weekly press conference on Monday.
White is second on the team with 30 kills in the first two games and is the go-to outside hitter for setters in crunch time. Hahn has recorded 16 digs coming off the bench and has been an important part of the rotation.
“Micaya’s obviously a veteran and has improved every year since she’s been here, and we’ve seen some good growth,” Elliott said. “(Hahn’s) become a very pivotal piece to our team … She’s changed her demeanor, she’s a lot more confident.”
While White has been a staple of the Texas attack for four years, Hahn has seen her role steadily increase as the years have gone on. Her role as one of the anchors of the Longhorn squad on the back end is one that she’s grown into with time.
“Claire has been one that has really become more confident in terms of who she is,” Elliott said. “It’s what happens as you evolve as a program. (The players) start learning about what makes them feel comfortable, what makes them feel uncomfortable.”
Minnesota will present the first top-10 matchup for the Longhorns this season, but the Golden Gophers started their season with a stumble. In their second game of the season, they were stunned and swept by then-unranked Florida State. Yet, Elliott sees no reason to dismiss them.
“We know that they’ll be ready for us,” Elliott said. “One game doesn’t make their season, and I’m sure they’re just building on the process and just trying to improve every single day.”
Last Sunday’s win over then-No. 14 USC provided a jolt of energy after a sluggish first game against UNI.
“(Winning) definitely does boost our confidence,” sophomore outside hitter Logan Eggleston said. “It gets us super excited and pumped to play even more teams because we know the crowd’s going to be like that again, and the teams are going to play balls out every single point, so we’re just excited.”
The first set between No. 3 Texas and No. 8 Minnesota is set for 7 p.m.