After three-straight Final Four appearances, most programs would be satisfied with their performance.
But not this year’s Longhorns — who are tired of finishing in the top four and want to finally break through to win a title.
“Our players are kind of getting tired of the Final Four, and if that sounds bad, it’s that they want to get to the top,” said Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott.
Not to say what they have done the past three years hasn’t been extremely impressive, especially last year’s performance.
The injury-riddled team clawed and fought its way to a Final Four appearance, despite five of the 13 girls being hurt at the end of the season.
“We’re a team of fighters, and that is kind of the ‘Texas Toughness’ that we’ve been trained to have,” said senior Sydney Yogi. “I think the fact that we can still make it to the Final Four with all those injuries and with a lot of key players out shows that we can really do anything.”
This year’s team mixes that “Texas Toughness” it displayed the year before, with a very talented group of players. Not only are they extremely gifted, they are also very long and tall, with the shortest player besides the libero being 5 foot 10 inches, which gives the Longhorns a huge advantage near the net.
And having a team full of healthy players at the start of the season is already paying dividends. The practices are full of energy, and each player is pushing one another to get better.
“Last year, we had a lot of injuries and it was hard to practice,” said senior Rachael Adams. “We only had around nine players, and now we have 13 competitive girls, and all the positions are up to play. There’s a lot of competition in the gym.”
Yet, despite the raw talent that this team has, the players will have to come together as a unit to form their own identity.
This group is a pretty new one, with three freshmen expected to see significant playing time along with the five players coming into the rotation that were injured last year. So there are some technical rotation issues, along with general chemistry problems to solve early on.
“We have a team that potentially has the talent, but we have to find out what their character and team personality is like, and we won’t know that until we start playing some matches,” Elliot said. “Ultimately, we have some really good pieces. If they learn how to work together and improve on a daily basis, that’s going to be the key for us.”
But Texas isn’t really worried about chemistry issues. Everyone gets along really well off the court, and they feel their team identity will come quickly once the sets start rolling.
A group of seniors has already been to three Final Fours in their three years on the 40 Acres. The seniors will look to lead their teammates back to the Final Four again, and this time, they hope to finish it and go to the promise. They start that journey this Friday against Pepperdine.
“Everyone has that calm confidence like we want to do so well, and we know we can do well,” said sophomore Bailey Webster. “We’re just trying to work together as a team to show how good we can actually be.”
Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: Horns want more than Final Four.