How 'bout those (other) Longhorns

Foot­ball is re­build­ing but Texas is thriv­ing at high level in other sports.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - Kirk Bohls Commentary

They pa­raded ’em out one af­ter an­other, one Longhorns coach fol­lowed by the next in Bell­mont Hall on Mon­day morn­ing, speak­ing about their teams. Their win­ning teams. Teams you don’t al­ways hear or see or read about as much. But teams that sweat as much, sac­ri­fice as much, work as much and, yes, win as much or a lot more than some of their rev­enue-pro­duc­ing cousins. Those teams.

Vol­ley­ball. Soc­cer. Cross coun­try. And bas­ket­ball, which in fair­ness just got off on the right foot in the men’s and women’s sea­son-open­ers last Fri­day and Sun­day.

We too of­ten get caught up in think­ing as the foot­ball team goes, so goes the en­tire Texas ath­letic pro­gram, and noth­ing could be fur­ther from the

win­ning truth. And we haven’t even men­tioned swim­ming and golf.

First, bas­ket­ball coach Shaka Smart showed up. Then cross coun­try coach Brad Herb­ster. Next was An­gela Kelly from soc­cer. Fi­nally Jer­ritt El­liott, vol­ley­ball guru. Win­ners, all of them. Smart’s club is 1-0 with a world of po­ten­tial for a team picked to fin­ish fourth in the Big 12. OK, it’s way early, but have you seen Mo Bamba play?

Herb­ster qual­i­fied both his men’s and women’s teams in the na­tion­als at Louisville on Satur­day. Only 31 teams qual­i­fied. Of those, just 17 qual­i­fied both their men’s and women’s squads, and Texas was one of eight to get au­to­matic reser­va­tions. Elite stuff. The men are back for a ninth con­sec­u­tive time.

Kelly’s got her soc­cer ladies into the sec­ond round of the NCAA tour­na­ment against Clem­son in her old stomp­ing grounds in Durham, N.C., near where she was an All-Amer­i­can Tar Heels player. Hey, she’s jus­ti­fy­ing the twoyear ex­ten­sion women’s AD Chris Plon­sky gave her this year. Kelly’s team has just two se­niors but 18 fresh­men or sopho­mores who have com­bined to score 19 of Texas’ 28 to­tal goals and post 21 of 29 to­tal as­sists. On­ward and up­ward.

Sopho­more for­ward Cy­era Hintzen, last year’s Big 12 fresh­man of the year, leads the team with nine goals, in­clud­ing a spec­tac­u­lar six match-win­ning goals, and five as­sists. Mid­fielder Ha­ley Berg, this year’s Big 12 fresh­man of the year, has six goals and four as­sists. Sopho­more goal-keeper Ni­cole Curry has a school record-ty­ing 11 shutouts. Neat stuff.

El­liott? If he solves his team’s serv­ing is­sues, the sec­ond-ranked vol­ley­ball team could well run the ta­ble in its last three matches, start­ing with 16th-ranked Kansas at Gre­gory Gym on Wed­nes­day, to make a bid for the top four and be­come a re­gional host. His Longhorns have reached the na­tional cham­pi­onship game the last two years.

So for­get 5-5 for a minute. For­get the foot­ball loss to Mary­land and, if you pre­fer, even a close win over Kansas last Satur­day. While you’re wait­ing for Tom Her­man to knock off a ranked team and have your fin­gers crossed that up­set might come Satur­day in chilly Mor­gan­town, W. Va., take a minute to cel­e­brate all the other teams on cam­pus that are do­ing just fine, thank you.

Go hang out at the Greg on Wed­nes­day. A thou­sand tick­ets re­main for Texas’ vol­ley­ball shootout with Kansas.

“We had a war with Kansas at their place this sea­son,” said El­liott, whose 21-2 team edged the Jay­hawks in a de­ci­sive fifth set on Oct. 11. “It’ll be a big­time match. We need this to be grow­ing as a team. I don’t think we’re peak­ing. I’m not sure you want to be. We want to be play­ing very well.”

It’s been a good fall for Texas sports.

Three Longhorns — Destiny Collins twice, Alex Rogers and Con­nor O’Neill — won cross coun­try Big 12 run­ner of the week awards this sea­son.

“They want to do more,” Herb­ster said. “They want to get in the top 15 or 20 year in and year out.”

On the vol­ley­ball court, phe­nom Lexi Sun has owned the fresh­man of the week award, win­ning three times, al­though Ash­ley Shook was so hon­ored twice. Chi­aka Og­bogu got de­fen­sive player of the week three times, and Mor­gan John­son once. Texas is loaded with young tal­ent.

In soc­cer, 14-3-2 Texas has won seven player of the week hon­ors this sea­son, the most in school his­tory. The Longhorns be­came just the fifth team in Big 12 his­tory to sweep all three awards dur­ing a sin­gle week (on Sept. 26) and won four con­sec­u­tive of­fen­sive player of the week awards for the first time.

“We’re in the sec­ond round and should be in the sec­ond round,” Kelly said. “I asked the team, ‘Are we sat­is­fied with just ad­vanc­ing to the sec­ond round or are we ready to take the next step?’ We hope we ex­pect to play three weeks be­yond this point and un­der­stand this is a step­ping­stone.”

It might be. Hintzen won the Big 12 player of the week award three times this fall and scored two goals to beat North Texas 3-0 lat Fri­day in Texas’ NCAA tour­na­ment firstround game. She was joined in the player of the week honor roll by team­mates Katie Glenn, Curry and two-time fresh­man of the week Berg.

So it’s not just about foot­ball, which would love to trade places — and records — with these other teams.

“Where we’re at is not where we’d hoped to be,” Her­man said. “We’re headed in a very healthy, good di­rec­tion.”

Kind of like vol­ley­ball, soc­cer, cross coun­try ...

RALPH BARRERA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Texas soc­cer star Cy­era Hintzen, last sea­son’s Big 12 fresh­man of the year, waves to the crowd af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced be­fore a match against the Rice Owls.

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