How 'bout those (other) Longhorns
Football is rebuilding but Texas is thriving at high level in other sports.
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 ...
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.