As the volleyball season enters its final month of regular season play, Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott has been searching for opportunities to replicate the feel of the NCAA tournament.
This season, Elliott has matched his team against ranked opponents No. 8 Florida and No. 14 Nebraska and has been in tough environments during Big 12 play.
“I love [being in tough environments],” Elliott said. “We need to be as uncomfortable as possible when we go to these environments because it’s going to help us come NCAA tournament time.”
Although the Longhorns have already been in challenging environments, Elliott wanted more opportunities to test the team in order to prepare them for
The No. 5 Longhorns (15-1, 7-1 Big 12) got that opportunity to simulate tournament play when they took on Chinese club team Zhejiang in two exhibition games, giving Texas an opportunity to rotate more players in and face a challenge.
In game one, despite missing five players because of suspensions, Texas had an easy time getting past Zhejiang, but the second game provided a much more difficult challenge.
“We told the team that we thought [Zhejiang] would play better [Tuesday], and we told them they would control the ball better,” Elliott said. “They are a good volleyball team. They were mixing up their tips and rolls, and they made us change a lot in our defense.”
Zhejiang pushed the Longhorns to five sets, but, in the end, Texas came out with a victory.
With the two games against Zhejiang in the books, Elliott said that the games provided an ample challenge.
“It is good to go for a routine and go through the lineup again and watch them,” Elliott said. “I can’t duplicate 18-16 game-five situations. [These games were] good for our ability to see where we are conditioning-wise and where we are doing a good job … That’s what makes it fun — that is what volleyball is all about. Let’s enjoy this and execute to win.”
These games also allowed the team to regroup after suffering an upset loss to Oklahoma. Against the Sooners, Texas committed 15 attack errors, 14 service errors and two blocking errors. Senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman said the second game against Zhejiang reminded the team that if they stick together, they can accomplish their goals this season.
“The game versus Oklahoma left a bad taste in our mouths,” Eckerman said. “We just needed this to kind of help us know that whatever may be out there, that we can compete. It was a big motivation for us to get back to playing Texas volleyball.”