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."