Chloe Collins

In her second year with the Longhorns, sophomore setter Chloe Collins is fitting in on the team. Splitting the setting duties with redshirt sophomore Nicole Dalton, Collins has posted 121 assists so far this season.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

On and off the volleyball court, Texas is chock-full of personality, something noticeable during many games. But it’s sophomore setter Chloe Collins’ goofy nature that stands out the most.   

“I’m always laughing about something,” Collins said. “My teammates are like, ‘Make sure you’re focused,’ but, little do they know, me being goofy and the playful person that I am — that’s my focus for getting with the team.”

Collins, at 5 feet 7 inches tall from Cypress, stepped onto campus while most of her high school friends were living up their senior year. For Collins, it was important to get onto campus as she was ready to become a member of the Longhorn volleyball team, a challenging feat.

Collins faced the normal challenges of adapting to college life. She got homesick and had to adjust to life in Austin, but the biggest obstacle in her way was fitting in with the multiple personalities present on the team. While fitting in was difficult at first, getting onto the team and UT’s campus a semester early helped with the transition.

“It was a beneficial transition for me,” Collins said. “I was able to get ahead in a lot of things, like academically and as well with bonding with the team for last year’s season. It just helped me to get [to] know players more instead of just coming right in the summer and having to develop quickly.”

Now in her second season, the coaching staff has noticed that Collins is fitting in better.

“I think [Collins] has gotten a lot more relaxed,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I think she’s starting to get comfortable. She’s starting to have fun, which is great.”

That newfound sense of relaxation has helped Collins’ performance this season. She leads the team in assists with 121 this season and averages 5.5 assists per set. 

Collins is even getting more help from her head coach. She had already built a relationship with former associate head coach Salima Rockwell, but, now, the setter and head coach are creating a chemistry of their own, which is something Elliott believes will help Collins in the long run.

“Coming here, there’s always a lot of pressure with such high accolades and getting her comfortable and having to compete last year and not earning the [setter] spot as much was tough,” Elliott said. “She’s grown up. She’s starting [to] understand who she is and has worked hard.”

But the coaching staff isn’t alone in noticing Collins’ hard work.

“I’ve known [Collins] since I was 13,” junior libero and outside hitter Amy Neal said. “She’s incredible to play with on the court. She’s super easy to communicate with. She always has a great attitude, and she’s just having fun and competing on the court.”

While her goofy personality may raise questions about her focus, her personality is one of 15 different personalities working toward a national championship.

“At the end of the day, we all want the same goal,” Collins said. “There’s no individual goal. The ultimate goal is to be in a national championship with your team.”

Sophomore middle blocker Chiaka Ogobogu and sophomore setter Chloe Collins go up for a block against a New Mexico State offense Saturday. Collins fininshed the match with 17 assists.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Proving her All-American dominance doesn’t fade in the spring, junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman led the Longhorns to a 4-1 victory over New Mexico State in this weekend’s exhibition match. Eckerman finished the match with 13 kills and two aces, assisted by sophomore setters Nicole Dalton and Chloe Collins.

Texas opened the match strong, winning three straight including a near-perfect second set. In the second game, the Longhorns hit a dominant .550, executing on 12 kills while succumbing to just one error. Freshman middle blocker Mirta Baselovic fueled an 8-0 run, contributing a big block and a decisive ace.

The Aggies won a close 25-22 fourth set with an 8-3 burst after the teams exchanged the leads. Texas closed the match with a 15-7 fifth game, secured by Collins with Texas’ 14th ace of the day.

The Longhorns finish spring play Saturday in Dallas. 

Big 12 Freshman of the Year Chiaka Ogbogu remembers watching Texas take on Michigan in the semifinals last year. She played alongside freshman setter Chloe Collins in the Under Armour All-America Volleyball Match & Skills Competition just a day earlier in the same arena — the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.

She stayed the extra day to watch the team she had committed to join. She remembers sitting in the stands with Collins, getting excited about her future collegiate career.

“[Everything], from [Sarah] Palmers’ defense to Bailey [Webster’s] hitting was amazing,” Ogbogu said. “It was just so exciting to watch. I remember getting chills and thinking about possibly being there next year.”

That opportunity is finally here. The stands are already set up for the first-round matchup against Texas State on Thursday. The top-seeded Longhorns are not fazed. Two days before their first game on the road to a repeat, the atmosphere in Gregory was surprisingly relaxed.

Jokes were being told, and the laughs were loud.

“You got to make sure they are laughing,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “You have to make the journey fun. It can’t be all business and [seriousness].”

The Longhorns are looking to repeat what they did last season when they dog piled in Louisville. But the defending champions are the team everyone wants to
take down.

“We have a big bull’s-eye on our back,” sophomore middle blocker Molly McCage said. “But I don’t think it affects our team. We don’t discuss that we are the number one seed.”

But McCage realizes last year’s run is in the past and that they need to be focused on the tournament this year.  

“It’s definitely not ‘no big deal,’” McCage said. “It’s a huge deal for us to win another national championship. Last year was great and was a great achievement, but that was last year. It’s a whole new year and new team.”

The tournament starts Thursday at 7 p.m. against a Bobcat team Elliott believes is very strong. 

“It’s the best Texas State squad they have ever had,” Elliott said. “We aren’t looking ahead. Our focus is Texas State and Texas State only.”

If the Longhorns beat Texas State, they move on to face the winner of the UTSA-Texas A&M game for a chance to go to the round of 16. The rest of their quarter of the bracket features the No. 8 seed Nebraska, No. 9 seed San Diego, No. 16 seed Duke and the team that Texas knocked off last year for their first title since 1988 — Oregon. 

Tickets are already sold out for Gregory Gym both days.

“I heard people talking about how intimidating Gregory is,” McCage said. “The fact that [the audience] is right on top of the court is a huge advantage.”

After starting senior setter Hannah Allison in each of her first three years at Texas, head coach Jerritt Elliott has handed the starting reigns over to freshman Chloe Collins this season.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Nearly 11 months after the clincher, the championship rings finally arrived for the 2012 national volleyball champions Monday.

But head coach Jerritt Elliott still hasn’t put his on.

“It’s in my closet in a box,” Elliot said.

Has he tried it on?

“Not yet.”

What is he waiting for?

“I don’t know.”

For the rest of the team, though, the wait couldn’t have ended soon enough, especially for senior setter Hannah Allison.

“They are kind of huge,” Allison said with a grin. “They couldn’t be the same size as our Big 12 ring, so they had to go a notch up.”

But things have changed since Texas celebrated in the confetti of triumph last winter. There was no doubt Allison was the starting setter of last year’s team. This year, that’s not the case.

Freshman setter Chloe Collins has come in and outplayed Allison.

“Chloe is our starter,” Elliott said. “We go with who’s been doing well in the gym.”

So, for the first time in her career, Allison is not the starter. As a freshman, she started 16 matches before an ankle injury in early October curtailed her season. As a sophomore, she started 28 of 30 matches. As a junior, she started 31 of 33.

“It’s different,” Allison said. “But if we are winning, we are winning.”

Time and time again, Elliott has proven he is not afraid to go with the freshman over the seasoned veteran.

“Last year we won with freshmen Nicole Dalton, Molly McCage and Kat Brooks,” Elliot said. “Sometimes you need to rely on the freshmen.”

But the competition in the gym is improving both setters’ game.

“We make each other better,” Allison said. “It’s not a negative competition. We have really different setting styles. I’ve learned stuff from her, and she’s learned stuff from me.”

It’s that competition in the gym that has made Texas a Big 12 powerhouse.

“It’s kind of crazy how competitive our gym can be,” Allison said. “Our B side continuously beats our A side. I don’t know what other team can say that.”

Could the B team compete for a Big 12 title?

“Definitely,” Allison said with a chuckle.

They certainly would not have any trouble with TCU (13-9, 2-6 Big 12), who comes to Austin Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. But that doesn’t mean the Longhorns (15-2, 8-0 Big 12) can take the game for granted.

“We work on getting better every day and finding something to improve on in every Big 12 game to get ready for the tournament,” Allison said.

But when the starting lineups are announced, it will be Collins throwing out the volleyball, not Allison.

“I’m competitive enough that I care more about winning than how much I play,” Allison said.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Chloe Collins remembers her first time on a volleyball court. She was a child in Cypress, Texas, clad in a YMCA uniform.

“I remember the exact place and time,” Collins said. “[With] our little blue jerseys. I was in the back row.”

Since then, the freshman setter has grown a few inches and swapped blue for burnt orange to become one of three freshmen on the defending national championship team.

“Texas was always my number one school,” Collins said. “I committed really early. As soon as Texas offered, I took it.”

Collins’ path to Texas included a trip to Turkey for the 2011 FIVB World Championship as a member of the United States Girls’ Youth National Team. 

It also included an explosive senior season at Cypress Woods High School, where Collins helped catapult the team to a 40-4 record, contributing 305 kills, 51 aces, 318 digs, 1,313 assists and 62 blocks. That season landed her a spot among honorees on the Under Armour High School All-America First Team. 

Collins opted to leave Cypress Woods a semester early and enroll at Texas.

“It was an all-around great decision,” Collins said. “I was able to get ahead in academics, as well as learning the offense and defense at Texas.”

As spring play commenced, Collins suited up and went onto the court without hesitating. In her first game at Gregory Gym, a 3-2 win over Wichita State in April, she tallied 18 assists, four kills and three digs.

“We had the best friends here yelling and cheering and the atmosphere was amazing,” Collins said of her first game. “Having the support that we have here and the team being so supportive of us coming in is great.”

The spring semester in Austin allowed Collins to fine-tune her competence on the court, as well as work on her time management skills, responsibility and priorities. She found a mentor in senior setter Hannah Allison, a team leader who helped pave the way for the Longhorns’ national championship.

As the team’s fall schedule kicked off, Collins added a match-leading 33 assists against UTEP in Honolulu. Against Penn State, the No. 1 team in the country at the time, Collins added her first double-double of the season with 22 assists and 16 digs. Her second straight double-double came the following day against No. 2 Stanford. 

While Collins didn’t expect to contribute so much at the start of the season, head coach Jerritt Elliott quickly saw potential, calling her “one of the best pure athletes I have ever coached.”

Collins, who cranks up music and dances before games to shake out the jitters, has quickly established herself as an enthusiastic presence on the court. 

“It can be a little whiffer ball and I’ll get crunk on it because it’s a point,” Collins said. “Just being on the court really excites me because I have a passion.”

While adjusting to college life and navigating the pressures of intense play make for a interesting set of challenges, Collins’ goals for her first season remain simple.

“[To] better my team, learn my role more and continue to get better every day,” Collins said. 

The Longhorns signed three top recruits for the 2013 season at the start of the summer. The newcomers include setter Chloe Collins, outside hitter Pilar Victoria Lopez from Puerto Rico and middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu.

"This is a great class for our program and we are thrilled with the quality of the young women we have acquired," head coach Jerritt Elliott said. "Each one of them has the ability to come in and compete from day one."

The new team members will join the defending champion Longhorns which will have 11 letter winners returning from the championship squad.

Collins recorded 305 kills, 51 aces, 318 digs, 1,313 assists and 62 blocks in her senior season at Cypress Woods High School in Cypress, Texas and earned Under Armour High School All-American First Team honors. Collins enrolled at UT for the spring 2013 semester and played through the spring season.

"She is a natural setter with great speed, vertical jump and body control in the air," Elliott said. “She may be one of the best pure athletes I have ever coached."

Lopez, from Caguas, Puerto Rico, was named the country’s top prospect in the sport for 2012.  She will compete for both the 2013 Puerto Rico Junior National team and the Puerto Rico Adult National team this year.

"She is a very smooth player that has the complete game," Elliott said.  “She has played at a very high level and her experience can help this team in 2013 and beyond."

Ogbogu was also a 2012 Under Armour All-American and played with Collins. Ogbogu was also awarded the 2012 Gatorade Texas Volleyball Player of the Year.

Ogbogu helped Coppell High School in Coppell, Texas win back to back Texas 5A State Championships in 2011 and 2012 and recorded 486 kills, 144 blocks with a .555 hitting percentage in her senior season.

Elliott said Ogbogu will continue a Texas tradition of strong middle blockers.

“She is a smooth athlete that touches 10'-7" and with growth, has the potential to develop into one of the premier players in the nation,” Elliot said.