Jennifer Doris

KANSAS CITY — With Texas losing its rematch to Penn State as well as seniors Juliann Faucette, Jennifer Doris and Lauren Dickson to graduation, with the former two being the winningest players in program history, Thursday's end to the season may feel unsatisfying to some fans.

Fortunately for the Longhorns, the future is filled with promise and potential.

Texas returns 12 members of this year’s Final Four team and welcomes three of the nation’s top recruits next fall. More importantly, the time off gives the slew of injured Longhorns time to heal and be ready for the 2011 season.

Outside hitter Amber Roberson, middle blocker Rachael Adams and setter Michelle Kocher will return for their senior years, with the trio having been to the Final Four every year in Austin. Freshmen setter Hannah Allison and libero Sarah Palmer both gained valuable experience on the big stage, not to mention sophomore utility player Sha’Dare McNeal, whose athleticism and development in the backcourt were crucial for the Longhorns.

Texas will also welcome back junior libero Sydeny Yogi, sophomore outside hitter Bailey Webster, freshman outside hitter Ashley Bannister and sophomore defensive specialist Cristina Arenas from injuries.

With the addition of incoming freshmen Haley Eckerman, Katherine Bell and Madelyn Hutson, head coach Jerritt Elliott will have plenty of depth — not to mention difficult coaching decisions.

Elliott implied Texas might opt for a 6-2 rotation next season, which was what the Longhorns used in their run to the 2009 national championship game. The 6-2 utilizes two setters and six hitters, while typically rotating out the backline with the libero and defensive specialists.

However, Texas will have to replace the leadership of Faucette and Doris. Faucette earned All-American honors in three of her years, including first-team this year, leaves with the fifth-most kills in program history. Doris finished in the top 15 in all-time block assists and total blocks, while garnering Big 12 Academic honors every year.

“Looking at them, you learn how to take control of a team at a certain time,” Roberson said. “There will be young players and they’ll be looking up to you, and you have to be ready to step to that.”

Considering Texas’ 5-4 start to the season, many doubted the ninth-seeded Longhorns could even make it this far.

“I’m proud of our team for getting to this point and they’re going to be very good next year so I’m excited to watch them,” Doris said. “I’ll be one of the Longhorns texting Jerritt 'good luck' as they hopefully get back to the Final Four.”

Despite the returning players, there is a lot of work to do.

“Every year it’s going back and rewriting the book, but every year, my management skills are less and less because of the quality of women they’ve been able to establish over the years,” Elliott said. “We’re going to get back here and we’re getting close to cracking this. We just need to keep getting back and keep getting the opportunities to do that."

"But again, with that being said, we have big players and the culture will change dramatically," he added, "and we have to teach them as a family what it means to be a Texas Longhorn and to represent this University."
 

“Fear the Faucette” may be the most appropriate saying to write on a sign for tonight as eighth-ranked Texas (19-5, 14-2 Big 12) faces off against Missouri (19-8, 11-6) at 6:30 p.m. inside Gregory Gym.

The senior outside hitter and team co-captain has been on a tear as the Longhorns’ season approaches its final lap. The San Diego native has strung together averages of 27.3 kills per match on .389 hitting, to go along with 9.67 digs and 1.67 blocks. On Monday, she earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors for the second time this season for her performances at Baylor and Texas Tech last week.

“[Juliann’s] been playing really well,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “It’s how she’s doing it. Her attack selection has really changed, her feet to the ball is a lot better, and her confidence is a lot better.”

Faucette, who is also on the Academic All-Big 12 second team, has stepped up in place of injured teammates with some great setting.

“[The situation] just calls for me to step up and [junior setter Michelle] Kocher’s setting great right now,” Faucette said. “It’s kind of just panning out that way. It’s definitely me wanting to go out there and win the game.”

Texas played its last two games without junior outside hitter Amber Roberson, the latest victim on a laundry list of injuries the team has faced through the season. With their second leading scorer out, Faucette shouldered a lot of the scoring burden, posting a career-high 30 kills against the Bears in an emotion-filled match that included plenty of jawing with the referees. Three nights later, she posted 24 kills against the Red Raiders in Lubbock.

Even with Faucette’s offensive showcase and Roberson’s injury, the team has managed to maintain the much-coveted offensive balance Elliott has preached about since the beginning of the year, as the team continues to get double digit kills from senior middle blocker Jennifer Doris, sophomore utility player Sha’Dare McNeal and junior middle blocker Rachael Adams.

“It’s all pretty much coming together full circle from the beginning of our season to now,” Faucette said. “With just the ups and downs we’ve had, everyone has seen our chemistry grow. Supporting each other and getting to know each other off the court is really showing on the court.”

With Roberson listed as day-to-day, senior outside hitter Lauren Dickson has stepped into the starting role. The University of Virginia transfer and Westlake High School graduate operated primarily as a serving specialist until these last two games. Dickson notched eight kills and 11 digs against Texas Tech on Saturday.

“She’s a great player,” Doris said. “She’s such a good contributor with her defense. It’s fun to play against her, but to see her get her shot and see her shine. We’re so happy for her.”

The Longhorns hope to extend their winning streak against a Missouri team that is boasting its own six-game tear. Texas has also dropped a set in each of its last three matches. Doris said that has more to do with the team’s own mishaps rather than being overmatched.

“It all boils down to taking care of our side of the net,” Doris said. “Our errors ultimately gave them the set. So as long as we take care of our own responsibility, we’ll be fine.”

When freshman setter Hannah Allison went down, the Longhorns spent very little time in a panic. After all, junior setter Michelle Kocher — the team’s “backup” — may be one of the best setters in the conference, regardless of whether she is starting or not.


Kocher’s tenure at Texas has been nothing short of unconventional. The Wheaton, Ill.-native came to the 40 Acres at the heels of the departure of All-American and Texas’ all-time assists leader Michelle Moriarty. Kocher stepped right in and delivered, starting 31 out of 33 games and garnering Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors.

In last year’s championship runner-up season, Kocher was asked to step down as the lone setter and split time with former Longhorn and All-American Ashley Engle. Head coach Jerritt Elliott often employed a two-setter rotation, so Kocher still saw time on the court.
This season started off differently as Kocher, despite being named the team’s assistant co-captain, started off on the bench, as the team opted for a 5-1 rotation with Allison as the setter.

Kocher mostly played at the end of blowout matches.

Kocher got the starting nod against Texas Tech after Allison went down with an injury, and the Longhorns have not looked back. The team has dropped one set in going 5-0, including an upset of then-second-ranked Nebraska at home, in which Cornhuskers head coach John Cook credited Kocher as the primary difference between the Longhorns’ win in Austin and their loss in Lincoln.

Junior outside hitter Amber Roberson and senior middle blocker Jennifer Doris have seen major statistical increases in kills and hitting percentage. Kocher, who along with her assists nearly averages double-digit digs, said it has been an interesting ride.

“It’s been a rollercoaster experience, but in the same aspect, I’m in the gym every day, so in my eyes, it hasn’t totally affected how I’ve played because every day you’ve still got to put in the time, put in the effort,” said Kocher, who won Big 12 Player of the Week accolades two weeks ago. “I’m still a part of the team whether I’m on the court or not.It’s been different, but fun.”

The Silver Cloud of Injuries

While battling with injuries played a part in the Longhorns’ early-season struggles with consistency and continuity, they have also made some tough coaching decisions easier.

The team has fought its way back to a top-10 ranking despite many of its top players recovering, which serves as an indication of Texas’ depth.
“It’s easy, we stay the same,” Elliott said on maintaining continuity. “We don’t have any other options. Who we have is what we have right now, so I really can’t mess up the lineup right now.”

At the conclusion of the season, the Longhorns will have to part ways with Doris and senior outside hitters Juliann Faucette and Lauren Dickson. But the team will also be welcoming back Allison, junior libero Sydney Yogi, freshman outside hitter Ashley Bannister and sophomore outside hitter Bailey Webster. Throw in the incoming freshmen class and other role players, and the sheer numbers will likely lead to competitive position battles.
With the rest of the season and a potentially-deep playoff run still ahead for the team, it may be too early to be thinking about next season.

Longhorns Statistically in the Conference

With powerful hitting backing the Longhorns’ current eight-game winning streak, the team leads the conference in hitting percentage (.293) and fourth in kills per set (13.6). It also stands second in blocks per set and service aces per set.

Among individuals, Texas’ pair of middle blockers are first and third respectively in hitting percentage with Doris at .439 and junior Rachael Adams at .435. Facette is the team’s top point scorer, averaging 3.81 points per set, which is seventh in the conference.

On a night when Texas raised breast cancer awareness with the Volley for the Cure campaign, the Longhorns swept visiting Colorado 3-0 in front of a pink-clad crowd at Gregory Gymnasium.

The Texas faithful showed their support for Volley for the Cure by wearing pink and waving give-away pink pom-poms all match long. The pink crowd filling the stands and the gym’s brown brick walls had Gregory Gym resembling a jelly donut.

A serving error by Colorado gave Texas (9-5; 4-2 Big 12) the point it needed to sweep the match and win the final set as the Longhorns regained their winning form en route to a 25-19, 25-15, 25-20 victory. The No. 11 Longhorns got back in the win column as they consistently overpowered Colorado (5-8; 2-5 Big 12) and extended their streak over the Buffaloes to 13 matches.

“Tonight was one of the first nights that we’ve been able to play consistently throughout an entire match,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We’re getting good set distribution and good balance from our team.”

The Texas offense was balanced across the board with junior middle blocker Rachael Adams and junior outside hitter Amber Roberson pacing the Longhorns with 13 kills apiece. Senior outside hitter Juliann Faucette added nine kills while senior middle blocker Jennifer Doris chipped in seven.

Faucette said it was a feel-good match for the team and stressed the importance of “getting our rhythm back and getting that W under our belt for the Big 12 race.”

Adams ­— named Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday — and Faucette set the tone for the game in the first set. Faucette led the way with seven kills while Adams added five on a blistering .833 attack percentage. A kill by Faucette put Texas up 2-1 early and the Longhorns never looked back, winning the opening set 25-19.

It was more of the same for Texas in the second as Adams continued her strong play with five kills in the set, each one bringing the crowd to its feet applauding her powerful hits.

Faucette, Roberson and Doris contributed two kills each to maintain a balanced Texas attack and keep the Colorado defense on its heels as the Longhorns coasted 25-15.

“It’s tough for other teams to block us when it’s spread out and there’s a lot of options,” Faucette said.

The Longhorns showed their versatility up front in the second during a 5-0 run to push the lead to double up the Buffaloes 16-8. An Adams kill followed a Faucette block and a Doris ace to ignite Texas as the team turned it on against an outmatched Colorado team.

Texas takes on Kansas State on Saturday in Manhattan at 6:30 p.m. The Longhorns have struggled on the road this season, going 1-4 away from Austin. 

On a night when Texas raised breast cancer awareness with the Volley for the Cure campaign, the Longhorns swept visiting Colorado 3-0 in front of a pink-clad crowd at Gregory Gymnasium.

The Texas faithful showed their support for Volley for the Cure by wearing pink and waving give-away pink pom-poms all match long. The pink crowd filling the stands and the gym’s brown brick walls had Gregory Gym resembling a jelly donut.

A serving error by Colorado gave Texas (9-5; 4-2 Big 12) the point it needed to sweep the match and win the final set as the Longhorns regained their winning form en route to a 25-19, 25-15, 25-20 victory. The No. 11 Longhorns got back in the win column as they consistently overpowered Colorado (5-8; 2-5 Big 12) and extended their streak over the Buffaloes to 13 matches.

“Tonight was one of the first nights that we’ve been able to play consistently throughout an entire match,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We’re getting good set distribution and good balance from our team.”

The Texas offense was balanced across the board with junior middle blocker Rachael Adams and junior outside hitter Amber Roberson pacing the Longhorns with 13 kills apiece. Senior outside hitter Juliann Faucette added nine kills while senior middle blocker Jennifer Doris chipped in seven.

Faucette said it was a feel-good match for the team and stressed the importance of “getting our rhythm back and getting that W under our belt for the Big 12 race.”

Adams ­— named Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday — and Faucette set the tone for the game in the first set. Faucette led the way with seven kills while Adams added five on a blistering .833 attack percentage. A kill by Faucette put Texas up 2-1 early and the Longhorns never looked back, winning the opening set 25-19.

It was more of the same for Texas in the second as Adams continued her strong play with five kills in the set, each one bringing the crowd to its feet applauding her powerful hits.

Faucette, Roberson and Doris contributed two kills each to maintain a balanced Texas attack and keep the Colorado defense on its heels as the Longhorns coasted 25-15.

“It’s tough for other teams to block us when it’s spread out and there’s a lot of options,” Faucette said.

The Longhorns showed their versatility up front in the second during a 5-0 run to push the lead to double up the Buffaloes 16-8. An Adams kill followed a Faucette block and a Doris ace to ignite Texas as the team turned it on against an outmatched Colorado team.

Texas takes on Kansas State on Saturday in Manhattan at 6:30 p.m. The Longhorns have struggled on the road this season, going 1-4 away from Austin.

In a rare occurrence, the burnt orange color of the Texas team was greatly outnumbered in their own gym — by fans clad in pink.
Saturday’s game against Colorado served as the Longhorns’ annual Volley for the Cure matchup, which uses the court to raise awareness about breast cancer.
Most of the crowd came decked in a wide range of pink apparel including T-shirts, sweaters, socks and hats. One spirited fan walked into the match late sporting a skin-tight leotard. Fans were also given free fuchsia-colored pom-poms as they walked into the gym.
The Longhorns came onto the court sporting warm-ups in the shade of the event, and even head coach Jerritt Elliott opted for a pink-and-purple tie.
The rally line on the west end, usually lined with kids, featured a row of breast cancer survivors. Between sets, Chris Plonsky, Texas women’s athletic director, led two survivors to midcourt and presented them with license plates with the word “LIVEON” printed on them.
Plonsky said it was important for the fans to go home and see what they can do to contribute to the cause.
“We want to keep this cause front and center in our daily routines,” she said. “Together, some day, we’ll find a way to beat this.”
The event is part of a plethora of activities put together by breast cancer awareness charities around the world during the month of October. This is the third straight year the athletic department has put on the program.
Senior middle blocker Jennifer Doris, who had seven kills to go along with three blocks and a serving ace in the sweep of the Buffaloes, said the match helps brings awareness to the team and the cause. Doris’s grandmother is a breast cancer survivor.
“[Breast cancer] is such a big thing. It’s bigger than all of us,” she said. “I’m glad we can do this.”
A Volley for the Cure banner was signed by scores of UT fans and was displayed at the Gregory Gym entrance after the game.
“It’s really encouraging and it puts it out there that this school cares about breast cancer and raising money for it,” said senior outside hitter Juliann Faucette, who tallied nine kills. “With it being a special night, it’s nice for us to get the win.”
Elliott liked how the team was able to put together one of its most complete performances of the season Wednesday.
“Overall, it was a really positive night for us,” he said. “A night we [got] to give back to the community and make Volley for the Cure a known commodity for our community to be a part of. It was nice for our team to be a part of that.”
Despite the team’s success, Elliott’s dual-colored tie will not be making any further appearances this season.
“Only once a year,” Elliott said.

In a rare occurrence, the burnt orange color of the Texas team was greatly outnumbered in their own gym — by fans clad in pink.

Saturday’s game against Colorado served as the Longhorns’ annual Volley for the Cure matchup, which uses the court to raise awareness about breast cancer.

Most of the crowd came decked in a wide range of pink apparel including T-shirts, sweaters, socks and hats. One spirited fan walked into the match late sporting a skin-tight leotard. Fans were also given free fuchsia-colored pom-poms as they walked into the gym.

The Longhorns came onto the court sporting warm-ups in the shade of the event, and even head coach Jerritt Elliott opted for a pink-and-purple tie.

The rally line on the west end, usually lined with kids, featured a row of breast cancer survivors. Between sets, Chris Plonsky, Texas women’s athletic director, led two survivors to midcourt and presented them with license plates with the word “LIVEON” printed on them.

Plonsky said it was important for the fans to go home and see what they can do to contribute to the cause.

“We want to keep this cause front and center in our daily routines,” she said. “Together, some day, we’ll find a way to beat this.”

The event is part of a plethora of activities put together by breast cancer awareness charities around the world during the month of October. This is the third straight year the athletic department has put on the program.

Senior middle blocker Jennifer Doris, who had seven kills to go along with three blocks and a serving ace in the sweep of the Buffaloes, said the match helps brings awareness to the team and the cause. Doris’s grandmother is a breast cancer survivor.

“[Breast cancer] is such a big thing. It’s bigger than all of us,” she said. “I’m glad we can do this.”

A Volley for the Cure banner was signed by scores of UT fans and was displayed at the Gregory Gym entrance after the game.

“It’s really encouraging and it puts it out there that this school cares about breast cancer and raising money for it,” said senior outside hitter Juliann Faucette, who tallied nine kills. “With it being a special night, it’s nice for us to get the win.”

Elliott liked how the team was able to put together one of its most complete performances of the season Wednesday.

“Overall, it was a really positive night for us,” he said. “A night we [got] to give back to the community and make Volley for the Cure a known commodity for our community to be a part of. It was nice for our team to be a part of that.”

Despite the team’s success, Elliott’s dual-colored tie will not be making any further appearances this season.

“Only once a year,” Elliott said.