Khat Bell making early mark on Texas volleyball program

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Highly prized recruit Khat Bell greets the media for the first time since arriving on campus this fall. The freshman hopes to fill the void left by Juliann Faucette, who graduated in May after leading the Longhorns to a third straight Final Four appearance.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

For the past three seasons, the Longhorns have reached at least the national semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, and all three times they have come up short. Two of those three defeats have come against Penn State, a team that is quickly becoming a rival to Texas. For freshman hitter Khat Bell, the gameplan this year is simple: Beat Penn State.

“I want to beat them,” Bell said. “Our goal this year is the national championship, and if that path goes through [Penn State], then that’s who I want to beat.”

Much of the reason Texas has found itself among the final four teams in recent years has been because of the play of hitter Juliann Faucette. Faucette started three years for the Longhorns, and at the end of her time at Texas, she had become a force to be reckoned with.

Having graduated last year, she now sits among the all-time greats that have played for head coach Jerritt Elliott and the Longhorns. As good as Faucette was for the Longhorns, there’s not much drop-off between her and Bell. Both players are natives of San Diego and were highly regarded coming out of high school.

Bell knows how important Faucette has been for the Longhorns, and she hopes to make a seamless transition into her role.

“They are definitely big shoes to fill,” Bell said. “I hope to start and help this team continue to do well.”

Bell checks in at 6 feet 1 inch and attended Mesquite High School outside of Dallas. She was ranked as the No. 2 recruit nationally — the same number Faucette was ranked when she came to Texas.

Bell, along with fellow freshmen Madelyn Hutson and Haley Eckerman make up another incredible recruiting class for coach Elliott. All three are ranked within the top 15 national recruits for the class of 2011.

“We have high expectations for this group,” Elliot said. “The three freshmen are pretty spectacular.”

Like many athletes that have come before her, Bell had to make a tough decision on where to attend college. She had been leaning heavily toward attending Oklahoma, but a visit to Norman put to rest any doubt on where she was going to play.

“I was a big fan of Oklahoma as a kid, mostly for the football,” she said. “But after I went up and visited the girls there, I felt more at home with the girls at Texas.”

Elliott has done an outstanding job of nabbing recruits from nearly every corner of the country. This year’s squad includes two Hawaiians, girls from Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Illinois and Maryland.

Hutson, a 6-feet-5-inch utility player from Brentwood, Tenn., described the entire program as having a “family environment.”

With team practices in the gym starting just a week ago, Bell has quickly established herself as a vocal leader on the team.

“I’m really loud,” she said. “I like to keep things exciting and yell all the time.”

A vocal leader is exactly what the Longhorns need entering this season. Bell provides a powerful replacement to Faucette and should bring the same intensity to the team. With her in the spotlight, the Longhorns should be more confident than ever before.

Printed on August 25, 2011 as: Freshman hoping to replace Faucette