All season long, dreams of a trip to the final four lay in the distance, a goal the team worked strenuously to achieve.
Now, the Longhorns have made their way up to Louisville to take on the tournament that was once an early season goal.
After defeating USC in a 3-0 sweep last week, the Longhorns’ tickets were punched for a trip to the final four tournament in Kentucky.
“Being able to make the final four with the game we had was something special,” junior libero Sarah Palmer said. “It just felt really good on the court and after the game.”
First up is a match that places the No. 3 Longhorns against unseeded Michigan, who upset No. 2 Stanford in the NCAA regional final.
Amidst a talented conference that includes Penn State, Michigan completed the regular season with a 27-11 record. Junior middle blocker Jennifer Cross was named yesterday to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America third team, while junior Lexi Erwin received an honorable mention.
The Longhorns fought to the finish in the NCAA regional tournament at home in Austin, clamping down on Florida before defeating USC.
“We are getting better in every spot of our playing,” Palmer said. “I couldn’t sleep this whole weekend just thinking about the win we had and the upcoming games we have. Michigan is going to be a tough team but we’re just going to keep our composure and play really well.”
Head coach Jerritt Elliott strategically scheduled a match in Louisville earlier this season to allow the team to get comfortable with the arena that would be the setting of the final four tournament.
“What’s important is just staying relaxed,” Elliott said. “We don’t need to change anything right now. What we’re doing is just playing at a high level, just getting them in the right frame of mind.”
For much of the young team, this final four marks uncharted tournament territory. For older members, a return to the tournament is a welcome accomplishment.
“It is going be a push because we know it’s go time,” sophomore Haley Eckerman said of her first final four tournament. “And this is it. This is our time.”