Nearly at the midpoint of the 2018 season, Texas has found itself spending a lot more time in the air than on the court.
The Longhorns have put trips to Nebraska, Wisconsin and West Virginia behind them, but still have plenty more places to go, literally and figuratively.
Now 15 games into the season with a less-than-perfect 11- 4 record, No. 8 Texas will continue to find itself as it reaches the business end of the season. Young players and veterans alike are continuing to gel together, and with it patch up pieces of the game where they’re lacking.
“We’re just working on building from the last game and just getting better,” senior middle blocker Morgan Johnson said. “For us to be able to pull out so many of these wins, it just speaks volumes to this team.”
Three of Texas’ past five road games have gone the distance to five sets, with Texas claiming victories in two of those matches. These usually beatable teams not only pushed Texas to the limit, but let Texas find out what its limits are.
The Longhorns found their ability to respond, remain calm, and execute in high-pressure situations. With a larger core of freshmen players anchoring this year’s squad, these games are the most effective means for growth as a young player— even if it means a little more sweating for fans.
“You don’t see that (growth) in all young teams,” Johnson said. “They’re still trying to figure themselves out and it shows the amount of potential each and every one of us have as an individual and the potential we have as a team.”
One of Texas’ main points of focus at this point of the season is playing as one. Johnson has even started to notice “that’s who [they] are.” It’s even more evident on the court, especially at this critical juncture in the season.
Johnson helped swing the game in Texas’ favor with her all-around play against Oklahoma. Freshman outside hitter Logan Eggleston paced Texas on the road at Kansas and TCU. Even on the defensive end, freshman libero Sidney Petersen has held her own.
Individual contributors like them help put the pieces of the puzzle together, and soon enough a different, more tested Texas team could be on the horizon.
“We have certain things that we’re focusing on and trying to work on,” Johnson said. “We’re splitting out priority on them like our defense, our blocking, and our coverage.”
As the Longhorns head into their last nine games of the season, Texas Tech is the next opponent standing in their way. The Red Raiders (15-6, 4-3 Big 12) sit at third in the Big 12 standings, but have dropped their previous three games.
Expect Texas Tech to come into Gregory Gym hungry, riding behind junior outside hitter Emily Hill and senior middle blocker Katy Keenan. The pair lead the Red Raiders in kills and blocks, and will give Texas work-in-progress defense a good test.
Before their last road trip for nearly a month, the Longhorns will play host to Texas Tech this Saturday, Oct. 20, at Gregory Gym. First serve is set for 1 p.m.