As a middle blocker and center in high school, junior middle blocker Sara Hattis made quite the name for herself in New Mexico. In her time at Cleveland High School, just outside of Albuquerque, Hattis garnered All-State honors in both volleyball and basketball, was an Under Armour All-American honorable mention in volleyball and led her volleyball team to the state finals.
Now in her junior year at Texas, Hattis is returning home when the Longhorns compete in the Lobo Classic this weekend and can’t wait to show off her home state to her teammates.
“It’s an exciting experience to bring your team back to where you’re from and show them what you did and grew up with your whole life,” Hattis said.
Raised in Rio Rancho, about 20 minutes outside of Albuquerque, Hattis was a multi-sport star in high school. In addition to her honors in basketball and volleyball, she also succeeded in track and field, placing second at state in the high jump her senior year.
Returning to her home state, Hattis is a key part on a Longhorn team looking to contend again for the national title after missing out on a chance to repeat as champs a year ago. The tournament is Texas’ first competitive match since suffering a heart-wrenching defeat to Wisconsin in the Final Four last December.
As tough as the loss was, Hattis said it was a good learning moment for the team.
“We have to be able to take every game seriously and not let down and think it’s going to be an easy game,” Hattis said.
That includes this weekend. While Texas comes in ranked second in the AVCA Coaches poll, none of the other teams in the tournament are in the top 25 and only one, New Mexico, received votes in the poll.
The Longhorns bring in a team loaded with talent, despite losing four players from last year’s team because of graduation. Along with the usual suspects in senior outside hitters Haley Eckerman and Khat Bell, Texas brought in two top freshmen in libero Cat McCoy and defensive specialist Kate Palladino.
With the top players whom they have, head coach Jerritt Elliottt plans on moving to a 6-2 formation, keeping a libero in the back row at all times with the hope of that opening up the offense.
“With us running the players that we have, we have the ability this year that’s a lot more comfortable than it’s ever been,” Elliott said.
Texas will get a chance to try out the new system against three teams that struggled in 2013. New Mexico is the only other team in the tournament to boast a winning record last year but still missed out on the postseason. The other two, UTEP and Seattle, combined for a 27-36 record.
Even with the lower level of competition to open the season, Elliott said they’re ready to start competing against someone other than themselves.
“They’ve been pushing each other a lot,” Elliott said. “It will be great to see somebody else across the net and see kind of where we’re at at this point.”