UN Court

Although she posted a strong first season in the fall, freshman libero Cat McCoy might not see action this spring after re-aggravating a foot injury during the USA Volleyball tryouts.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

When Texas takes the court Friday against SMU, the team will be missing four players.

Freshman libero Cat McCoy is day-to-day after re-aggravating a foot injury during the USA Volleyball tryouts. McCoy was the team’s starting libero in 2014 and didn’t play at the team’s season opener in Hawaii on March 19.

Sophomore utility player Nicole Dalton is out for the spring as she rehabs an injury in order to be fully prepared for the fall season.

Texas lost junior middle blocker Sara Hattis after she decided to join the women’s basketball team full-time. The Longhorns will also be without junior outside hitter Tiffany Baker, who plans to take a medical redshirt to recover from an ongoing knee injury. Baker played sparingly in 2014.

For the first time in four years, Texas volleyball will also take the court in Gregory Gym without Haley Eckerman and Khat Bell.

Eckerman and Bell finished their four-year careers at Texas with four Big 12 championships, three NCAA Final Four appearances and an NCAA Championship.

Eckerman was a two-time AVCA First-Team All-American, named the 2013 Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year and a two-time Big 12 Conference Player of the Year. Bell was the 2012 COBRA Magazine Defensive National Player of the Year, a two-time AVCA All-America honorable mention and a three-time All-Big 12 First Team honoree.

The Longhorns began their first spring season without the duo in early March. Texas dropped the game against the Rainbow Warriors 3–1 (25–15, 20–25, 15–25, 23–25). 

Outside hitters junior Amy Neal and sophomore Paulina Prieto Cerame led Texas with 12 kills. Junior libero Kat Brooks also led the team with 23 digs. Texas’ middle blockers, junior Molly McCage, sophomore Chiaka Ogbogu and freshman Mirta Baselovic, had eight blocks each. Sophomore setter Chloe Collins amassed 34 assists.

The Longhorns take on SMU at 6 p.m. on the Longhorn Network. Texas will continue spring play in Houston at the F.A.S.T.  Tournament, followed by the Collegiate Showcase in Dallas, and will conclude the spring season with a game against UTSA on April 24.

Associate athletic trainer Lisa Stalans has led the team through a challenging season, including the loss of senior forward Nneka Enemkpali.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

In late January, against a highly ranked Baylor team, senior forward Nneka Enemkpali drove to the basket and jumped near the hoop for an offensive rebound. On her way back down, she fell awkwardly, collapsing in excruciating pain as she suffered a serious knee injury. Immediately, associate athletic trainer Lisa Stalans rushed to her on the court.

What came next was the hardest part.

Soon, Stalans had the task of telling Enemkpali her college basketball career was over. 

“It was heartbreaking for me to say that,” Stalans said. 

It was something Stalans had done before and will most likely do again in the future. As an athletic trainer for the women’s basketball team, Stalans is in charge of the health and rehabilitation of the athletes. She evaluates them, tends to them and even delivers heartbreaking news — like she had to do with Enemkpali.

“It’s part of my job,” Stalans said. “I try to keep them calm and say, ‘You know, we’ll see what happens.’ It’s been stressful. When an athlete gets hurt, your biggest thing is getting them back on the court as soon as possible, but they just can’t go out there when they’re 50 percent.”

However, Stalans’ job also gives her the opportunity to deliver the good news when an athlete can return. 

In December, freshman guard Ariel Atkins was out indefinitely after an ankle injury. But on Jan. 16, Stalans announced Atkins could return to the court. This week, Atkins won the Phillips 66 Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor for a third time this season. Stalans said it’s those moments when the athletes’ hard work in rehabilitation pays off that make her love her job. 

“I try to get them back better than they were before the injury,” Stalans said. “That is my challenge to myself — to make an athlete better than they were.”

Currently in her 14th season at Texas, Stalans has been with the women’s basketball team since 2009, longer than current head coach Karen Aston. Before that, Stalans spent nine years with the Texas soccer and women’s tennis teams after she arrived in Austin in 2000.

Texas has kept Stalans busy this season. Nine longhorns have missed at least one game because of injuries. But, fortunately for Texas, the injuries didn’t happen all at once. 

“I do feel like one got hurt, and then I get that person back, and then I’d lose another one the next week,” Stalans said.

Her main concern is getting her athletes ready for their next step, which in most cases is just getting ready for the next game.

“We got back at three this morning from West Virginia, so today was all about ice baths,” Stalans said. “I tell them to think of it like a spa.”

Senior guard Krystle Henderson and the Longhorns look to get their 20th win when they take on TCU on Senior Night.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns, a game away from their second consecutive 20-win season, will hit the court one last time at the Frank Erwin Center to host TCU on Tuesday.

The team, which currently sits at sixth place in the Big 12, is in jeopardy of losing the opportunity for a first-round bye in the conference tournament. 

But there’s even more on the line in this game. It’s Senior Night. 

But this go-around feels different without senior forward Nneka Enemkpali.

“She affected our whole team because of her leadership qualities,” head coach Karen Aston said. “She was really the mother of the team. That was difficult to lose at the point that we lost it. It was difficult to replace because there really wasn’t another personality as strong as Nneka with the maturity that she had.”

Enemkpali said her torn ACL injury has provided a lesson in overcoming adversity and given her perspective about her time on the court.

“I’m sad that I’m not physically able to play out there,” Enemkpali said. “But I think, looking back on the memories that I had at the Erwin Center, the interactions with the fans and support of my family and teammates — it’s going to be easier for me to take in that journey here is over.”

Senior guard Krystle Henderson will also play for the last time at Texas. Although she played two seasons at Wichita State, she said she will miss the time she spent with her teammates.  

“I know I didn’t come here for four years, but it’s definitely been a learning experience for me,” Henderson said. “I’m going to try not to cry, but I’m sure I’ll shed some tears.”

The team will try to bounce back after giving up a 14-point lead in overtime against West Virginia on Sunday.

“Our team has had problems with what I call sticking the knife in and really stepping on someone when you have somewhat some control of the game,” Aston said. “The most disappointing thing was how little we defended in the second half.”

Texas will look to stop a potent TCU offense that ranks third in the conference in scoring, averaging 70 points per game. TCU’s defense produces nearly 10 steals per game.

“For all of the young players, coming off of a tough road trip [with a] short turnaround, you would be looking for some sort of something to probably dig a little deeper with, and I would think that would be a great reason to do that,” Aston said.

The Longhorns lost their pervious matchup against the Horned Frogs last month by 5 points. They look to split the season series at 7 p.m. on the Longhorn Network.

Freshman guard Ariel Atkins has come up big for the Longhorns in their current three-game win streak. Teaming up with fellow freshman Brooke McCarty, the Longhorns are finding their groove again after a mid-season slump.
Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

Winners of three-straight games, the Longhorns return home to face Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. Wednesday with a new face sporting a jersey on the bench.

Junior guard Emily Johnson, who previously served as a team manager, will be joining the team. However, she will not compete this season, according to head coach Karen Aston.

Johnson will officially join the injury-prone Longhorns next season with two years of eligibility remaining.

The worst loss for the  Longhorns came with senior forward Nneka Enemkpali’s season-ending ACL tear in January. She  the surgery to repair the ACL last Wednesday.

“I think it’s the first of a two-part surgery,” Aston said. “We’ve acknowledged we want to play the remainder of the season on her behalf.”

After losing six of seven since Enemkpali went down, the Longhorns are finally settling in — on and off the court.

On the court, they have won three in a row. Off the court, Texas leads the conference with eight student-athletes named Thursday to the 2015 Academic All-Big 12 Conference Women’s Basketball Team.

Additionally, the Longhorns are seeing more productivity from the young leaders of the team. Freshmen guards Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty continue to deliver strong double-digit performances, proving themselves as key players to Texas’s offense.

Starting the past 10 games for Texas, McCarty was named Phillips 66 Big 12 Freshman of the Week. Both Atkins and McCarty have won the award twice.

Oklahoma State (18–8, 8–7 Big 12) head into Austin with a similar record to the Longhorns (18–8, 7–8 Big 12). In Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the first of the two matchups this year, the Cowgirls escaped 60–66.

The game will air on the Longhorn Network.

Redshirt junior Tiffany Baker is playing in her first season as a Longhorn after transferring spring 2013. The outside hitter made her debut against UTEP in the Lobo Classic last week.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Though she’s been in Austin for over a year, redshirt junior Tiffany Baker stepped onto the court as a Longhorn for the first time last week. 

Last season, Baker suffered a knee injury that kept her from playing all of last year. But after a year of recovery, she got the chance to put on her new Texas uniform for the first time at the Lobo Classic.

“It was a long recovery,” Baker said. “It was gruesome, but my trainer and teammates were super supportive.”

Baker, who transferred from Tennessee in spring 2013, said her first time playing with the Longhorns didn’t disappoint.

“Honestly, it was something I’ve been looking forward [to] ever since I got here,” Baker said. “It was hard sitting out that long because I’ve never had an injury that serious, but my team was super supportive, and it’s been awesome to be back on the court with them.”

Baker said she learned a lot during her recovery, which gave her the ability to improve as a leader and as a player.

“My leadership skills grew,” Baker said. “I got to know the team more. I wasn’t super vocal as a leader before this. Getting that time off, I got to know personalities and know how people worked on the team, so that helped me to get more comfortable leading vocally when I’m not on the court.”

Those newfound leadership skills helped Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott identify Baker as a team captain.

“I’m so proud of her work ethic,” Elliott said. “She’s a really special one. She’s got tremendous work ethic. She’s extremely solid. She’s committed to the team. She may not be playing as she’d like, but she brings a lot in terms of support and leadership, understanding what it takes to be great for the younger players.”

Baker is no stranger to success, though. As a senior in high school, she was named the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year and won a state championship with 5A Hebron High School.

As a freshman at Tennessee, Baker and the Lady Vols won an SEC Championship and then finished third in conference in 2012. But, the following year, she wasn’t happy with her situation in Knoxville and decided to transfer to Texas — a decision she doesn’t regret.

“It’s extremely more competitive in the gym,” Baker said. “It’s amazing. I love it. It’s what I came here for, is to compete every day and play at a high level.”

As Texas prepares to face Florida this weekend, Baker hopes to get a win against her former SEC rivals.

“I just want to keep up the whole ‘me being undefeated’ against Florida,” Baker said. “Obviously, Texas and my teammates have been undefeated against Florida since I’ve been here, so we want to keep that up.”


Nicole Dalton sets up a play for Texas. The Longhorns will face their biggest challenger for the Big 12 crown this weekend in Manhattan. The Wildcats have only dropped one match this season.(Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

When sophomore utility player Nicole Dalton stepped onto the court in the Lobo Classic last weekend, it was the culmination of a year-and-a-half of hard work and rehab.

Following the Longhorns’ national title run in 2012, Dalton had surgery on her left and right hips last season, forcing her to sit out for the majority of the year.

After a tough rehab, Dalton returned to the court Friday against UTEP and played a key part in Texas’ three wins over the weekend.

“I’ve been waiting for almost a year-and-a-half to get back onto the court,” Dalton said. “It felt good to just get out there and play.”

In her freshman year, Dalton played in 31 of the Longhorns’ 35 matches and posted a .206 hitting percentage, along with 35 kills and 184 digs. But two days after Texas claimed its national title, Dalton underwent surgery on her left hip to help fix a labral tear.

Dalton, a Colorado native, went through the rehab process during the offseason, only to have a setback with her right hip, forcing her to have a second surgery in September and redshirt last season.

“It’s almost been a year, and I’m slowly but surely getting back onto the court,” Dalton said.

Dalton described her time away from the court as one of the hardest things she’s done. However, during that time, Dalton found a new role for herself on the team as almost another assistant coach, helping the setters figure out where to go with the ball.

“They were really good with communicating with me and taking my feedback,” Dalton said.

While the typical length of recovery for Dalton’s injury is six to eight months, it took her eight to ten months to complete her rehab. And once team doctors cleared her for action, winning a spot on the court wasn’t an easy task, considering the Longhorns’ stacked lineup. Still, Dalton was confident she would make the most of her opportunities and win a spot on the roster.

In three matches this past weekend, she totaled 56 assists and 19 digs and was named to the all-tournament team.

Head coach Jerritt Elliott is finally ready to have Dalton back. With such a young team, he hopes Dalton contiues to be a leader off the court, as she makes her way back on it. 

“Everybody thinks that this is a great team at this point, but we are extremely young in terms of the amount of time players have had on the court,” Elliott said. “[Dalton] has done a really nice job of being a veteran in this program and leading them and having the confidence to keep them calm.”

With both hips now healed and the Longhorns eyeing a return to the national championship, Dalton isn’t worried about injuries. Instead, she simply wants to play her game.

“I have nothing to lose,” Dalton said. “Everything’s fixed.”

Myles Turner: men’s basketball, forward

When McDonald’s All-American Myles Turner put on a burnt orange bucket hat, signaling that he would sign a letter of intent to play for the Longhorns, Turner created a tremendous amount of hype for himself and his future team.

Turner has yet to step on the court for Texas, but the Longhorn faithful have already stared calling him the next Kevin Durant. While Turner may not play the same position, he’s expected to make a similar impact as the 2013 NBA MVP, who played just one season with the Longhorns.

The five-star recruit from Bedford was the prize of head coach Rick Barnes’ 2014 recruiting class. Turner, who is listed at 6 feet 11 inches, was named a top-10 college basketball player by USA Today and was the No. 2 recruit in the nation, according to ESPN. 

Turner came close to choosing the Kansas Jayhawks over the Longhorns, but he, along with many Longhorn fans, feels like he made the right decision.

“I fell asleep [the night before his decision] and, to be honest, I had Kansas on my mind,” Turner told the Austin American-Statesman. “It really hit me when I woke up the next morning: I’m in the state of Texas. I’m a Texas born-and-raised kid. I had a little Texas pennant, and the Longhorns were staring me right in the eyes. I just felt like, dang, I made the right decision.”

Jerrod Heard: football, quarterback

While senior David Ash is expected to return under center this season, freshman Jerrod Heard will play a solid backup for Texas. He led 4A John H. Guyer High School in Denton to back-to-back state championships and threw 22 touchdowns and ran for 2,161 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns during his senior year.

Heard is currently battling sophomore Tyrone Swoopes for the second quarterback position, and, no matter the outcome, he will become a prominent force for Texas in the years to come. Listed at 6 feet 2 inches, 199 pounds, Heard has the ability to make an impact for Texas under new head coach Charlie Strong and rid Texas of its struggles with the quarterback position.

Armanti Foreman: football, wide receiver

With the dismissal of former wide receiver Kendall Sanders, a potential suspension for junior wide receiver Daje Johnson and an injury to senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, freshman Armanti Foreman has a chance to play immediately for the Longhorns.

The speedster from Texas City was a consensus four-star recruit in high school and was named the Houston Touchdown Club Offensive Player of the Year during his senior year.

Although Foreman is still learning as a freshman, his speed and skill at wide receiver makes him a dangerous threat.

Public relations senior Cody Levy (left) and finance junior Kyle Jenkins, members of UT's bass fishing team, weigh their catch.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s fastest growing sport doesn’t compete at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium or on the court at the Frank Erwin Center. In fact, this sport doesn’t even take place on the 40 Acres. It happens on Lake Austin — with the help of a rod and reel.

The Texas bass fishing team has more than doubled in size since its founding in 2008. After starting with just seven active members and a few sponsors, the team now has 15 fishermen and eight sponsors.

“The Texas bass team was pretty small when I joined,” said Cody Levy, public relations senior and team president. “I became president of the team with a goal of fishing more tournaments, gaining more members and securing more sponsorships to help with expenses. This year, we have started right where we left off and have been growing and securing bigger and better sponsorships.”

Wade Middleton, director of collegiate operations for the Association of Collegiate Anglers, said collegiate fishing, even outside of Texas, is growing at an unprecedented rate.

“There are now over 250 schools nationwide that actively compete yearly,” Middleton said. “College fishing has grown about 400 percent since the ACA had its first event nine years ago.”

The Texas team hosted its first ever competition, the University of Texas Collegiate Invitational, on Lake Austin last Sunday.

“This is an Association of Collegiate Anglers event for all colleges,” Levy said. “I think everyone is going to talk about for it for years because it is the first college fishing tournament that guarantees all anglers will be rewarded with at least some [equipment] after the competition.”

In a collegiate bass fishing tournament, each school sends at least one team of one or two anglers who fish from the same boat for eight hours. If an angler wants to fish alone, the tournament director may assign a non-fishing observer to accompany the angler. Teams are scored based on the combined weight of their five heaviest bass of at least 15 inches in length.

“Largemouth bass, spotted bass and smallmouth bass are counted,” Levy said. “Bass presented for weigh-in that fail to measure the official length are not counted.”

Of the 10 schools that competed in Sunday’s tournament, the Longhorns’ top pairing of Carter Lyon and Carlos De La Fuente finished eighth overall, with a combined weight of 17.52 pounds. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s top duo won the event with a combined weight of 26.79 pounds.

The result may not have been what Texas was looking for, but the team’s passion and desire to succeed remains as high as ever.

“When I went through a breakup, that feeling didn’t even come close to the pain I was feeling when I lost a bass while fishing,” Levy said. “No matter what I go through, I will always be a fisherman and never give up.”

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Two years ago, forward Jonathan Holmes and the other five members of his highly rated recruiting class sat in Cooley Pavilion on Selection Sunday as they were selected to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The freshmen were the only Longhorns on that year’s team who had never been to the tournament before.

Holmes sat in the same place last Sunday, watching the same show. But not everything was the same: Nobody from his recruiting class was there, and, this time, he was the only player in the room who had been to the tournament.

“It was definitely difficult,” Holmes said. “You come in with those guys, you build relationships with those guys, and you’re with them everyday for two years, so it’s difficult to see them leave.”

Nobody could have predicted that this is where Holmes would be today. When Holmes, a San Antonio native, arrived on the 40 Acres, the Longhorn basketball program was full of promise. Fresh off one of the best seasons of head coach Rick Barnes’ tenure in 2010-2011, Holmes came to Texas as part of the 2011 recruiting class that ESPN ranked as the fourth best in the nation.

But, after a disappointing freshman season that ended in a first round loss to Cincinnati, things went from bad to worse for the Longhorns in Holmes’ sophomore season. J’Covan Brown, the team’s leading scorer, bolted for the pros; Sterling Gibbs became the first of Holmes’ recruiting classmates to transfer; and Myck Kabongo, who was expected to make up for Brown’s absence, was suspended for the first 23 games.

The missing pieces, combined with a lack of leadership, sent the Longhorns spiraling down the conference standings. Even worse, the team’s failure to live up to expectations wreaked havoc off the court. A clearly strained relationship began to develop between Barnes and some of his players, and the program began to come apart at the seams.

“A lot of things went in to [our struggles] last year,” Holmes said. “No one person was at fault. It was a group effort. But, when you lose, it’s easy to point the finger and say someone else is wrong.”

It all came to a head at the end of the Longhorns’ disappointing season. Texas’ 16-17 record meant there was no possibility of making the NCAA tournament. So, instead of letting his guys watch the selection show, Barnes ran an intense practice.

“Where we were at this time a year ago wasn’t acceptable,” Barnes said. “That’s why we knew we had to take a hard look at everything, and sometimes tough changes have to be made.”

From there, the house cleaning began. Kabongo left for the NBA, Julien Lewis transferred to Fresno State, Sheldon McClellan took off to Miami and Jaylen Bond went north to Temple. Just like that, fewer than two years after he’d arrived in Austin as part of a highly touted, six-man recruiting class, Holmes was the only one left.

“They did what they thought was best for them,” Holmes said. “I thought about leaving too, but I just had to look in the mirror and understand the things that I had to improve on.”

Media and Longhorn fans alike began calling for Barnes’ head and speculating about just how bad this year’s team would be. But, just as everyone on the outside thought the walls of the Texas basketball program were caving in, the people on the inside knew they were just starting to be rebuilt.

“Before the season even started, we knew we had a good group of guys by the way they were in it together,” Barnes said. “Once the season got going, they never flinched." 

As the only upperclassman in Barnes’ rotation, Holmes has been the de facto leader for the Longhorns all season. While his quiet demeanor may lead some to wonder how much of a leader he really is, it’s his work ethic on the court that has set an example for his younger teammates.

The junior forward is averaging a team-high 13 points per game and 7.2 rebounds heading into the NCAA tournament. Those are impressive numbers by any standard, but his coaching staff and teammates will tell you that the box score is only a small reflection of the impact Holmes has had on this team.

“He’s not a vocal guy. I’m not sure he’ll be that, ever,” Barnes said. “He leads in the way he goes about his business. He works hard every single day. He doesn’t have bad days.”

Those leadership skills will be put to the ultimate test this week, as Holmes leads the rest of his team in their first appearance at the NCAA Tournament.

Unlike his inexperienced teammates, Holmes has been through just about everything in his three years at Texas. But there’s still one thing that the entire roster would like to experience together for the first time: a tournament victory.

Senior guard Chassidy Fussell drives to the basket during Texas' contest Monday night. Fussell was one of four seniors honored during Monday night's senior night. 

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

Tears filled the eyes of senior GiGi Mazionyte as she stepped onto the court squeezing tightly onto her family’s hands. The crowd cheered as the announcer announced that Mazionyte — along with seniors Chassidy Fussell, Helen Tau and Ashley Roberts — was playing in her final regular season game. 

It seemed fitting that No. 18 Oklahoma State was the regular season finale. The Longhorns opened conference play with a close 61-67 loss to the Cowgirls and closed it Monday night with a 65-58 win.

The win gives Texas the third spot in the Big 12 ranking going into postseason play but, more impressively, gives the Longhorns their 21st win of the season.

“I’m really proud of our basketball team tonight,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I have always thought, as a coach, that [20 wins] is the symbol of a good basketball team.”

Although it was a big game against a ranked opponent, it was important to Aston to honor her seniors. Tau and Roberts, who usually sit firmly on the bench for the majority of games, found their names on the starting roster Monday night. 

“I think that is something that those players always remember,” Aston said. “Some of them have not had the opportunity to run through that tunnel this year, so it was important to me, and I’m sure it was to them.”

Tau returned to the bench at the 17:40 minute mark with a smile stretched across her face and a cheer from the stands while Roberts trotted back with 16:29 to go in the first. Both eventually jogged back to the court with Texas in the lead with about 50 seconds left. 

“Just to see them smile — [especially Tau],” Fussell said. “She has the biggest smile on the team. We told her to shoot the ball. We didn’t care if she made it or missed. It’s just great to see my teammates out there.”

Texas started off the game quick and aggressive. Freshman forward Nekia Jones set the tone and brought up the energy within seconds of checking into the game with a 3-pointer immediately followed by an acrobatic layup. 

The second half got off to a slow start. The Longhorns were initially sloppy, misdirecting passes straight into the hands of Cowgirls. Oklahoma State fought hard to cut the Longhorns’ lead, but Texas pushed back just as hard to maintain the lead for its seniors.

“All we talked about before the game was just playing for the seniors, no matter what,” Fussell said.