Longhorns prepare for ‘December Madness’ at home

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

On a chilly Sunday evening, Texas’ players, coaches and family members went to head coach Jerritt Elliott’s home dressed in burnt orange. The team gathered for the NCAA’s postseason selection show, where teams from around the country learn their spots on the NCAA Tournament bracket.

“We didn’t do it last year, but we’ve done it in the past.” Elliott said. “I like it. I want to create a family atmosphere and people comfortable being a part of it.” 

Volleyball players sat with their dinner, chatting about everything but volleyball. Unlike teams on the tournament’s bubble, Texas had nothing to stress about with a 22–4, 14–2 Big 12 record. The team knew it would host the first and second round of playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the country. 

When the clock struck 8:00, coach called for the team to move upstairs to his home theater. NCAA Final Four chairs lined the back wall, facing the television. In front of them, volleyball players squeezed themselves into reclining brown leather chairs to watch the NCAA selection show. 

Before he turned on the TV, Elliott had an announcement for the freshmen’s first time watching. 

“One match at a time and respect those opponents,” Elliott said. “Amongst teammates, make sure you stop [from] talking about future opponents and all that stuff, let’s focus on who we have Friday night here.” 

It was a live show. Every time Texas’ name was called as the No. 4 seed, the girls cheered on camera for the rest of the nation to see. Senior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame had been anxiously waiting after each team was called to see who the Longhorns would take on first.

“The tournament is probably the funnest part of the year,” Prieto Cerame said. “It’s our December madness. You get to play teams that you normally wouldn’t play in conference, and there’s a lot at stake.” 

Finally, former Longhorn middle blocker Nell Fortner, announced on screen that the Longhorns would take on UT Rio Grande Valley in the first round at home. The winner of the match would take on either Texas A&M or Southern Methodist University in the next round. 

The players applauded, but not for the team they’ll face on the other side of the net. The excitement highlighted another chance in the tournament; another chance at a national championship. Junior libero Cat McCoy captured a Snapchat of Texas’ name on the big-screen bracket, while senior defensive specialist Nicole Dalton ran to the front of the room to take a team selfie. 

Freshman outside hitter Micaya White sat quietly, watching the rest of the bracket. 

“I’m actually really nervous, but it’s good nerves.” White said. “I need to work on just being comfortable being uncomfortable because in playoffs that’s probably the biggest thing to worry about.” 

White and the Longhorns take on the Vaqueros at Gregory Gym on Friday at 6:30 p.m. With a win, they will play their second-round game on Saturday at 7 p.m.