After exhausting start to the season, Texas pushes for one more week

Hannah Williford, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 14 flipbook. 

The Texas volleyball team is tired. 

Since the Longhorns began classes at the end of August, they have played, and won, a total of seven matches. Due to a COVID-19 break during last year’s season, this is the third semester in a row Texas Volleyball is in action, including a deep NCAA tournament run in April.

Head coach Jerritt Elliott said players took at least three weeks off in the summer to rest, but the team has been busy since their schedule began again this fall.  

“Adults don’t realize that these kids are going from eight in the morning until nine o’clock at night and they’re traveling and they’ve got papers and they’re not getting a whole lot of sleep,” Elliott said. “For them, this is the first time in their life that they’ve been in this kind of grind.”

Elliott said he relies on check-ins players perform on their iPads each day to see how the team is doing mentally and physically, as well as touching base in-person and communicating with team captains. 

The head coach also attempts to carve out time for them “just to be 18 to 22 year olds,” Elliott said. Before the semester began, he crammed his 6’4” frame into a go-kart and took the team to the F1 racetrack to compete head-to-head. Elliott claimed that out of the team, he took home the prize for best racer.  

“Coaches have such a big responsibility for their (players’) emotional health right now,” Elliott said. “It’s been something that I’ve been dealing with for 21 years here. That happens through relationships and communication and seeing where they’re at.”

In both games over the past weekend, Texas lost one set. All of their other games besides No. 7 Minnesota had been sweeps. But Elliott said he has been pleased overall with the team’s performance and said getting into tight games, like Sunday’s thriller against Notre Dame, is important to the team. 

“We want to be in this situation, we want to embrace being stressed out, we want to embrace being pushed,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to be able to handle those emotional highs and lows and be able to focus when you’re down a few points.”

The focus will be necessary this season, as Elliott said he estimates 12-16 teams have Final Four potential.

“The challenge of the season is always, ‘Can you match the emotional output that the other team has?’” Elliott said. “At Texas, you get the best shot from everybody. It’s their national championship match and so there’s a difference in terms of the emotional responsibility that you have putting on that uniform.”

While Elliott said the team will finally have 3-4 days of rest at the end of next week, they first have to get through Friday’s game against rival Texas A&M and next Wednesday’s match versus Rice, who they lost to last season. 

“We’ve kind of got to just grind this out and then they’ll get some days off … to just emotionally get some rest and get their bodies in order,” Elliott said.

On Monday, both the players and Elliott had a short one-day rest. Elliott said he planned to spend the day quietly: in the backyard, complete with a nap and a little barbeque.