Key pieces of Horns’ title team will return
championship could be, but this feeling is worth all we’ve all gone through to get here,” Elliott said Wednesday, four days removed from hoisting the trophy with his team in Louisville.
The Longhorns flew back to Austin around midday Sunday, then rolled into the Frank Erwin Center to be feted by fans during halftime of the Texas-Tennessee women’s basketball game. The team looked as it if had spent the previous 16 hours celebrating their national title, and Elliott confessed that he didn’t sleep at all Saturday night.
Since then, the magnitude of winning the championship has started to settle in.
“Really, there are times during the day that I kind of sit up and remember that we just won the championship, and I just shake my head and smile,” Elliott said.
It didn’t take long before fans started asking about next year, and whether the Longhorns — who went 29-4 — can win a second straight national championship in 2013. It’s perhaps a natural question to ask; Texas, after all, played so well throughout the season and will lose only one player — senior utility player Sha’Dare McNeal — from this year’s roster.
Outside hitter Haley Eckerman — this year’s Big 12 player of the year — will be a junior. Outside hitter Bailey Webster, who was last year’s conference player of the year, will be a senior. Also returning are other key parts to Texas’ title team, including middle blocker/ outside hitter Khat Bell ( junior), setter Hannah Allison (senior) and libero Sarah Palmer (senior).
The Longhorns will get an early test when they play in the Big Four Classic along with national powers Penn State, Stanford and Florida.
“We are still trying to enjoy this one a while before we start thinking about next year,” Bell said. “... We know we will have a solid, experienced team moving forward and that we should be stronger from winning this championship.”
Texas, which has made it to four of the past five Final Fours, lost three times in a four-match span this September, including a road loss to Penn State, the nation’s top program which eliminated Texas in an epic championship match in 2009 and again in the 2010 national semifinals.
But the Longhorns won 24 of their final 25 matches, winning 12 of 13 sets through four postseason matches to get to the Final Four, then sweeping Oregon for the title.
“The bottom line is that my team played great all season and then found a way to be at its best this season when we had to be,” Elliott said. “We saved our best for last; we played about as well as we could throughout the tournament.”