Rachael Adams

For the No. 1 seeded Longhorns, the season has ended too early. The seniors on this squad have been accustomed to finishing among the final four while playing at Texas and hoped to end their time in burnt orange with a national title. But, UCLA ended Texas’ season at the Elite Eight in Kentucky.

The 3-1 loss ended the Longhorn’s impressive season with a 25-5 record. Rachael Adams’ play made it apparent that she wanted to finish her career at Texas with a national championship ring. With a career high of 19 kills and a team best .412, her final match as a Longhorn was an impressive effort. She ended her college career with 20 career post season matches played, which ties the all-time Texas record.

With multiple errors and net violations, the Longhorns let this match slip out of their hands. In the first set, the team hit .517 percent, but that dropped all the way to .222 in the fourth. Elliott tells the team to have about three errors per set, but the team had 22 errors overall — an uncharacteristically high number.

The Longhorns went down 11-8 in the first set, but a timeout called by Jerritt Elliott was exactly what the team needed and they went on a 14-4 run to win the set, 25-19.

In the second set, Texas went down early again, but rallied to tie the score at 21. But, the Bruins won the set 25-22. Slow starts plagued the Longhorns in this match, but they rallied to claim a 15-14 lead off of a kill from Sha’Dare McNeal in the third. But a 4-1 run by UCLA at the end of the set finished it 25-22.

Texas started off stronger in the fourth, but UCLA’s Rachael Kidder’s two kills at the end of the set sealed the Longhorns fate, with a 25-21 loss. Elliott subbed in senior setter Michelle Kocher for sophomore Hannah Allison in an attempt to change the momentum and keep the team alive, but it wasn’t enough.

A trip to the Final Four in San Antonio was what the Longhorns were expecting for this post season, but they were not their usual offensive powerhouse in the match and their defense wasn’t where it needed to be, either. The team has a consistently high hitting percentage, but they could not find their rhythm against a powerful UCLA squad.

Seniors Adams, Kocher, Amber Roberson and Sydney Yogi are ending their time at Texas as one of the winningest classes in Texas volleyball history. But, their efforts were not enough.

For the No. 1 seeded Longhorns, the season has ended too early. The seniors on this squad have been accustomed to finishing among the final four while playing at Texas and hoped to end their time in burnt orange with a national title. But, UCLA ended Texas’ season at the Elite Eight in Kentucky.

The 3-1 loss ended the Longhorn’s impressive season with a 25-5 record. Rachael Adams’ play made it apparent that she wanted to finish her career at Texas with a national championship ring. With a career high of 19 kills and a team best .412, her final match as a Longhorn was an impressive effort. She ended her college career with 20 career post season matches played, which ties the all-time Texas record.

With multiple errors and net violations, the Longhorns let this match slip out of their hands. In the first set, the team hit .517 percent, but that dropped all the way to .222 in the fourth. Elliott tells the team to have about three errors per set, but the team had 22 errors overall — an uncharacteristically high number.

The Longhorns went down 11-8 in the first set, but a timeout called by Jerritt Elliott was exactly what the team needed and they went on a 14-4 run to win the set, 25-19.

In the second set, Texas went down early again, but rallied to tie the score at 21. But, the Bruins won the set 25-22. Slow starts plagued the Longhorns in this match, but they rallied to claim a 15-14 lead off of a kill from Sha’Dare McNeal in the third. But a 4-1 run by UCLA at the end of the set finished it 25-22.

Texas started off stronger in the fourth, but UCLA’s Rachael Kidder’s two kills at the end of the set sealed the Longhorns fate, with a 25-21 loss. Elliott subbed in senior setter Michelle Kocher for sophomore Hannah Allison in an attempt to change the momentum and keep the team alive, but it wasn’t enough.

A trip to the Final Four in San Antonio was what the Longhorns were expecting for this post season, but they were not their usual offensive powerhouse in the match and their defense wasn’t where it needed to be, either. The team has a consistently high hitting percentage, but they could not find their rhythm against a powerful UCLA squad.

Seniors Adams, Kocher, Amber Roberson and Sydney Yogi are ending their time at Texas as one of the winningest classes in Texas volleyball history. But, their efforts were not enough.

Freshman Madelyn Hutson (3) spikes a ball over the net during a game in Gregory Gym. In each of the past three season the Longhorns have reached at least the Final Four. With one of their best teams under coach Jerritt Elliot they are ready for yet another deep postseason run.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Appearing in three final fours in three years — along with a number of All-American award-winners — has made Texas volleyball one of the best and most respected programs in the country.

But despite of all of the records and accomplishments the Longhorns have reached under head coach Jerritt Elliott, there is still one last step for the team to take to become a truly elite volleyball power: Texas needs to win a national championship.

The last three seasons the Longhorns (22-5) have come agonizingly close to reaching that goal, losing in the final four each of those tournaments. In 2009, Texas lost a two-set lead to Penn State in the finals, falling just two points short of finally winning a national title.

The defeats in those final four matchups still sting, especially for the members of this year’s senior class. The team will look to use that disappointment to their advantage this time around, starting today in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Texas State. Texas is trying to funnel the memories and lessons learned from previous losses to fuel the fire.

“We are definitely hungry,” said senior Rachael Adams. “That’s exactly what our senior class brings. That experience and that drive and determination that a lot of teams don’t have, we are definitely ready.”

This year’s squad has worked through a lot to get to this point. At the beginning of the season, there was an influx of youth on the roster, leading to an adjustment period while the team fought through chemistry issues.

But the Longhorns never believed it would hamper them for long, and it only took a few games for the team to really come together and form the right blend. Despite losing the services of freshman outside hitter Khat Bell to a knee injury, the Longhorns have bounced back. The mid-season return of utility player Sha’Dare McNeal helped the lineup really hit its stride — Texas has reeled off 14 straight wins.

“We always have our rough patches at the beginning of the season, especially with a lot of new players coming in,” said sophomore Hannah Allison. “I think that even though we were struggling, we had that confidence that this is where we are now and this is where we want to be by the end of the season.”

Texas is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tourney this year after winning its fifth Big 12 Championship and is ready to embrace the expectations.

“You would think we’d feel pressure,” Adams said. “But we found out [the seeding], swept it behind us and moved on. We just continue to get better. A lot of teams would feel the pressure, but none here.”

The pressure will be on the other schools when they step into Gregory Gym this weekend to partake in the regional round, as they not only have to deal with one of the best squads in the nation, but also perhaps the loudest crowd.

The first opponent for Texas in the NCAA Tournament is Texas State, the Southland Conference champion. The Bobcats will look to come in and knock off their in-state rivals, so Texas is certainly not taking them lightly.

“We’re very ready,” Adams said. “Texas State is in front of us and when the first ball is served we’re going to be ready to go.”

Volleyball

Senior Rachael Adams has left her mark at Texas with numerous individual achievements, but she wants to finish it off with a title.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Goodbyes are never easy. But Rachael Adams’ time at the University of Texas is coming to an end.

Adams, along with the other seniors on the squad, has been to three final fours in a row. Starting Friday when Texas’ run in the NCAA Tournament begins, each game the team plays could be her last in burnt orange.

“I definitely want to give my all to this team,” Adams said.

“Everything that I’ve learned these past couple years, I will use it these last weeks and just give it my all.”

During Texas’ sweep of Baylor, Adams recorded her 1,300th career attack. This qualified her for Texas’ career hitting charts. She now ranks No. 1 all-time at Texas in hitting with a .493 attack mark.

“That’s crazy because there have been amazing players that have come before me like Lauren Paolini and Brandy Magee,” Adams said. “It’s kind of surreal to surpass their hitting percentages. But we’ve got to keep going and I’m very honored.”

Paolini and Magee held the old record of .373.

Adams has definitely left a mark at Texas. She has been an important factor in helping the young Longhorns come together this season. Although the team started off with a bit of a shaky start, the team is now the No. 1 seed going into the national tournament. She said this year has been special because everyone has worked so hard, especially the freshmen.

“They’ve had to get better even faster and the roles that they’ve had to fill, they’ve been doing great,” Adams said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of them.”

Adams is currently second in the Big 12 in hitting percentage, only behind teammate Sha’Dare McNeal and fifth in blocks. She was named to the All Big 12 First team on Sunday. The work ethic that Adams has learned through the program will help Adams as she graduates and leaves UT. She is an advertising major, but hopes to continue with volleyball.

“I am just going to go with the flow and see what happens,” Adams said.

Sophomore outside hitter Bailey Webster said Adams will be missed next year.

“She’s so important,” Webster said. “She’s one of the best middles of the country. We’re really cherishing all the time we have with her and hopefully winning each and every game so we can keep playing with her.”

Adams said her time at Texas has flown by.

“I feel like just yesterday I was making a to do list for stuff that I want to bring to college,” Adams said. “It’s crazy how fast it goes.”

Adams has been a rock for Texas as the team lost a third of its roster to injuries last season. In 2010, she ranked No. 1 in the NCAA statistics with a .443 hitting percentage. She says her experience at Texas has been amazing.

“I couldn’t ask for more,” Adams said. “And I have no regrets.”

Printed on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 as: Adams looks to bid adieu to 40 Acres with title

Senior middle blocker Rachael Adams, one of three honored in SaturdayÂ’s Senior Night festivities, posted 11 kills as Texas defeated rival Oklahoma for the second time this season. The Longhorns, winners of 14 consecutive matches, clinched the outright conference championship with the win.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

The No. 5 Longhorns battled back on Senior Night to defeat Oklahoma and win an outright Big 12 Championship — Texas’ fifth conference championship and third outright title.

The Sooners defeated the Longhorns earlier in the season, 3-2, and went ahead early in the first set Saturday night. A 9-2 rally by the Longhorns led by two blocks and a kill by Rachael Adams gave Texas a 15-12 lead but the Sooners came back and won the set 25-21.

The Longhorns trailed again in the second set, but a 12-2 run by Texas gave the team a 25-16 set win. Freshman Madelyn Hutson had two kills and a block assist and had a career-best .600 hitting percentage in the match. Freshman Haley Eckerman had three straight aces to close out the set. She had a career-high five service aces in the match.

“We were just able to build confidence,” Adams said. “When you have a server that can keep it on the other side’s passers, you just let the front court do it from there. You get on the big runs.”

The Longhorns were losing 12-4 in the third but found another comeback set win. They had a 21-9 rally and won the set 25-21. Bailey Webster had four kills in the set with two of these kills giving Texas two of the last three points in the set. She led the team with 16 kills overall.

Two blocks and two kills by Adams helped the Longhorns take a 13-8 lead in the fourth set. A kill by Webster ended the set 25-19.

The seniors, who have been to three consecutive Final Fours, ended their regular season in style, in a game where they had to fight hard for a win against one of the few teams who have defeated them this season.

“They weren’t going to come in here and be like, ‘Oh, yeah. Here’s the Big 12,’” Adams said. “They were going to make us fight for it. And that’s perfect going into the tournament time, because other teams are going to do that too.”

Head coach Jerritt Elliott is grateful for what the senior class has given to this program and is glad to send it off with a conference win. But the Longhorns’ goal all season has been to win the NCAA tournament, so the team now has to set its sights beyond the Big 12.

“We were not good tonight early on,” Elliott said. “We didn’t have a rhythm going. I didn’t think we were at a high level, and they changed that.”

He said once the team was down 12-4 in game three, they started playing at a completely different level.

“Some nights, you’re not going to be as smooth as you normally are,” Elliott said. “And you’ve got to be able to find wins, and this group did that. This is a huge confidence builder because this could happen in the NCAA tournament.”

The Longhorns finished the season winning 14 consecutive games, and this victory extended the Texas’ home winning streak to 28 — a new UT record.

The seniors have advanced far in NCAA tournaments every year that they have donned burnt orange. But in their final year, they want to win it all.

Printed on Monday, November 28, 2011: Texas tops Oklahoma, clinches Big 12 title

Volleyball

Here are three observations from Texas’ win over Baylor.

Fresh faces come in for Texas

With the loss of Khat Bell, Gregory Gym has seen some fresh faces playing on the court. Sophomore middle blocker Haley Cameron and senior setter Michelle Kocher both played Wednesday night, and the team didn’t miss a step. Kocher had 11 assists in the game.

“They have a trust, and they compete every single day, and they understand different rules and how they go about that,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “We have confidence in what these players can do.”

The team is 3-0 without Khat Bell and is adjusting well to changes in their lineup.

Rachael Adams sets record

Rachael Adams sealed her name in Texas volleyball record books on Wednesday. She had her 1,300th career attack. This made her eligible for Texas’ career hitting charts.

She is now No. 1 all-time at Texas with a .429 attack percentage. She passed Brandy Magee and Lauren Paolini’s records of .373.

The senior has continually led the team and remains consistent through every game. She finished the game against Baylor with eight kills.

Allison still starting setter but Kocher plays well

In Texas’ last match against Kansas State, starting setter Hannah Allison struggled in the first set, and was replaced by Michelle Kocher.

Kocher came in and performed well, spurring Texas to a win, putting up 39 assists in the game, to Allison’s 15.

Against Baylor, Allison regained the starting role and performed well. She had 27 assists in the game, and when she was in the game, Texas’ attacking game flowed well.

However, in the third set, Kocher came in the game and also played above average ball, assisting on 11 Texas points, while showing a strong connection with outside hitter Madelyn Hutson. The battle for the setters spot will be an interesting one to watch as the season winds down, as both players are setting very solidly. 

Hannah Allison prepares to spike the ball in a recent game for Texas. Allison and the Longhorns extended their winning streak to five games on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas continued its winning streak on Wednesday night, defeating Baylor 3-1 in Waco. The Longhorns have now won five games in a row.

Senior middle blocker Rachael Adams had 13 kills and .500 hitting, and freshman Haley Eckerman, who was named Big 12 Rookie of the Week several days ago, impressed again with .387 hitting and led the team with 15 kills.

Texas (13-4; 6-1 Big 12) took an early lead in the first set and had an 8-0 run. Sophomore outside hitter Bailey Webster had two kills and a solo block in the run. She had 14 kills in the game. The Longhorns eventually had an 18-8 lead and never looked back. Adams had three kills late in the set.

The Longhorns fell behind early in the second set, and Baylor had a 6-1 run. The Longhorns couldn’t come back, and the Bears continued to dominate, finishing the set 25-16.

The Longhorns came back with a vengeance in the third set. They took a 16-8 lead, and a 5-1 run gave Texas a 23-13 lead. Eckerman’s seventh kill of the set finished it off with Texas winning the set 25-15.

Freshman Khat Bell and sophomore Hannah Allison both had a pair of blocks to lead the Longhorns on a 6-0 run. Bell had eight blocks in the game, a career high. Allison had an impressive 43 assists and 10 digs. Their assistance in the run gave the team a 11-4 lead. Texas had as large of a lead as nine in the set, but the Bears continued pushing and made the score as close as 22-17. But kills by Eckerman and Adams finished the set 2-19.

Texas hit .310 in the game, the fourth time in a row the team has hit .300 or better.

Printed on Thursday, October 20th, 2011 as: Longhorns continue win streak, down Baylor in Waco

Here are three observations from Texas’ three set sweep of Texas Tech.

Hannah Allison is a key part of this team

Allison had 15 assists in the first set. She was all over the floor and did not give up on the ball throughout the night. She even had two service aces in the second set. Without Allison, Texas would not have had such a successful night both offensively and defensively. Rachael Adams finished the game with a .600 hitting percentage. In the first set, she had 15 assists and in the second set, she had two serving aces. She finished the game with 36 assists and five digs. She’s taken on a leadership role with her improved play and team attitude.

Sha’Dare McNeal is back

In her first start since opening night against Pepperdine on Sept. 26, McNeal made her presence known on the court — and it wasn’t because of her knee brace.

She had an incredible down the line kill that made the score 23-17 in the third.

“I figured that Rachael’s hitting numbers would go up 100 to 150 points with Sha’Dare next to her because she pulls a blocker with her and makes it a lot more challenging with that,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “With the numbers that Sha’Dare is able to put up and Rachael to go up for big numbers and get good balance, it was really nice to see.”

McNeal said that she is learning to trust her knee again.

“It’s been kind of a challenge,” she said. “But everyday [I’m] getting in the practice room and I’m working to get where I was.”

Low on Blocks, High on Digs

Elliott expected that McNeal’s return would lead to an increased amount of blocks for Texas.

But Texas had 43 digs and three team blocks. Amber Roberson had nine digs while libero Sydney Yogi and McNeal both had eight. The team’s defense has continued to get better and better this season.

Although blocks weren’t necessarily the team’s strong suit tonight, the team still dominated.

“We’ve got so much velocity and we’re digging balls far off the net and making it challenging,” Elliott said. “I would have thought we would have won the blocking game tonight, but we didn’t.”

He was impressed with how the team was able to slow down balls by getting touch blocks and soft blocks .

“There wasn’t a lot of balls hit to the wood and when that happens, we’re pretty successful,” Elliott said.

Haley Eckerman spikes the ball during the LonghornsÂ’ sweep over the Red Raiders on Wednesday. Eckerman finished the match with nine kills.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

The No. 10 Longhorns had their second sweep in a row with a 3-0 win over Texas Tech on Wednesday.

Bailey Webster had an impressive 11 kills on .320 hitting and middle blocker Rachael Adams finished the game with seven kills and hit at a .600 clip.

The Longhorns dominated the first set and Webster had six kills.

The beginning of the set was close, but by Texas’ 16th point, the Longhorns started pulling away with the lead. Four kills each from Adams and Haley Eckerman aided the Longhorns in their 25-17 first set win over the Red Raiders.

Texas had an impressive 17 kills in the set and a .344 hitting percentage.

Amber Roberson held her own with seven digs, half of the team’s total in the set.

The Longhorns got an early 6-3 lead in the second set and didn’t look back. A service ace by Hannah Allison improved Texas’ lead to 12-5. The Red Raiders would only get six more points in the set and a kill by Eckerman would finish the set 25-11.

Eckerman finished the set with four kills. Ashley Bannister was substituted in during the set and made an impact. She had three kills and a dig. The Longhorns (12-4; 4-1 Big 12) finished the set with a .462 hitting percentage, while Texas Tech had .053 hitting percentage.

Amber Roberson had three digs by the end of the second set.

“[Head coach] Jerritt [Elliott] talks about trust and knowing that Amber is working really hard and everyone else is working really hard on our defense,” Eckerman said. “That’s trust for us to know that they’re going to get it to the setter, the setter is going to get it to us.”

The Longhorns started out strong in the third set and took a 15-7 lead. But once Elliott put in substitutes, the Red Raiders were determined to win the set. At one point in the third set, Texas was outhitting Tech .349 to .040. The Longhorns had a 24-19 lead, but a surge by Tech brought the score much closer. But a kill by Haley Cameron ended the game 25-22.

With Sha’Dare McNeal back in the starting lineup, the Longhorns had some adjustments to make, but after sorting out some passing problems in the first set, they took the win with ease.

“With the new lineup, there’s going to be some relationship issues,” Elliott said.

“But the things we thought we would get out of this lineup and knew that we would get is a lot more balance from our team.”

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: Eckerman, Adams lead UT in sweep 

Senior libero Sydney Yogi will look to lead her young teamates to yet another final four in 2011.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

A lot of attention this season has been focused on the youth in the Longhorn’s squad. After four games, the team has proven it is ready to compete. But a team is not a team without leaders — and the seniors on the squad are prepared to do that. Rachael Adams, Sydney Yogi, Michelle Kocher and have been to three final fours in their three years in burnt orange. But now they plan to take Texas even farther.

“We have a very young team and what they need now is an example and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do,” Adams said. “Each day come in and take no days off and hopefully they can follow in my footsteps and work just
as hard.”

So far this season, Adams has not disappointed her teammates. In Sunday’s game against Israel, she had 11 kills on 14 error-free swings and hit .786. On Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, she had a career-best three service aces. A senior with vast experience, she’s leading by example.

“As a senior, I have to step up and lead the team,” Adams said. “I’ve had some great leaders who have came before me and they’ve done some great things and I’m trying to do that just like them.”

Adams said former Longhorn Juliann Faucette, who she was teamed with at the 2010 USA Volleyball Open National Championship, is an inspiration to her.

Junior Sha’Dare McNeal spoke of Adams’ importance.

“Rachael is a very competitive player,” McNeal said. “The things that she does, I’ve never seen any middle do before. I feel like everybody contributes something to the team and with her athleticism, it makes us a little more steady in the middle.”

Yogi, a libero, said the experience she and her fellow seniors have helps them with the underclassmen. In addition, the seniors understand and remember what it was like being new at Texas and to the volleyball program.

“It is a completely different game than high school or club,” Yogi said. “They come in and the first couple days of practice you can tell they are kind of shell-shocked as to the speed of the game and the intensity of practices.”

And that’s where the seniors come in.

“I think us four seniors have a lot more weight on our shoulders I think just because we have that experience,” Yogi said. “We have a lot of younger girls who are going to get significant playing time.”

Head coach Jerritt Elliott has been impressed with the leadership displayed by the upperclassmen. He believes the trait is vital to the Longhorns making another deep postseason run.

“At the end of the day our leadership is going to have to get there [to the National Championship] and we are going to have to execute when it’s crunch time,” he said.

Printed on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 as: Seniors provide leadership on, off court for young Texas squad.