11 Dec

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No. 2 Texas Volleyball Heads to NCAA Regional Semifinal in Minneapolis

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The No. 2 seeded Texas Volleyball team will play No. 15 Colorado State in the NCAA Regional Semifinal on Friday at 4 p.m. in Minneapolis Minn. With a win the Longhorns would advance to the Regional Final and play the winner of No. 7 North Carolina vs. No. 10 Oregon.  Texas hopes to win both matches and again advance to the Final Four, a feat it has accomplished in five of the last six years.

"Our work is cut out for us, we've got some very lofty goals that we're trying to accomplish," head coach Jerritt Elliott said. "They are just trying to accomplish the most difficult thing, and that is to win a national championship."

Texas (25-2) finds it self in familiar situation having gone to the Regional Semifinal in the last nine-straight years. The Longhorns swept Arizona State 3-0 in the second round of the tournament last Friday in front of a packed house at Gregory Gym. Given that no team from near Minneapolis will appear in the Regional,  Elliott expects a dramatically smaller crowd at the Minneapolis Sports Pavilion.

"We have to get ourselves in the mindset that we have to compete at the highest level and potentially in front of nobody," Elliott said. " In Minnesota, there may be 500-1,000 people because they aren’t in that region."

The Longhorns hold a 7-1 advantage over their previous eight meetings with the Colorado State Rams, but have not face the Rams since 1998. None of the current Texas players have played Colorado State before and Elliott knows they will have their work cut out for them.

"They’ve got very good ball control—they move the ball around," Elliott said. "They’ve got a very good opposite, left side hitting is good and both of their middles can be very effective. They’ve got a lot of balance in terms of how they can attack us. We will have to do a very, very good job of understanding what we are supposed to be doing."

Colorado State (30-2) enters the match having beat Colorado 3-2 in a dramatic second round match, in front of 6,011 fans in Fort Collins.  The Rams had five players reach double figures for kills against Colorado, led by senior outside Marlee Reynolds. Reynolds finished with 18 kills on .364 hitting and the team attacked with a .329 efficiency for the match. On the year Colorado State has hit at an average of .283 percent, and has held opponent to a .146 hitting percentage. Like the Longhorns, the Rams won all but one of their Mountain West conference matches.

"They do a lot of really great things," Texas freshman libero Cat McCoy said. "We can't overlook them and we just have to play point by point."

The Rams will be looking to make it to the Regional Finals for the first time in the programs history with a win over Texas.

For Elliott he said there is a sense of urgency among his team to make sure they take care of business against the Rams.

"We feel an extreme amount of desire to make sure these players understand how good this team is," Elliott said, "because Colorado State is, in sense, a huge name and they have been a powerhouse for years in terms of their success."

The Longhorn players said they feel confident in their system and are continuing to focus on just playing one game at a time.

"This team has built a lot of trust and we work hard in practice," junior Molly McCage said. " I remember last season that we did that as well, but I have a feeling that with this team, we are good together and we play well one match at a time. So I just have a really good feeling about this team."

The match Regional Semifinal versus Colorado State will start at 4 p.m. on Friday and will air on ESPN 3.  If Texas wins the Regional Final match will take place on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Live Stats: http://www.cstv.com/ gametracker/launch/gt_wvolley. html?event=1407546&school=fo& sport=wvolley&camefrom=& startschool=&

 

Live Stream: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/ index#sport/volleyball/

James Schleicher is the publisher of Horns Illustrated magazine. He's also a fifth generation Texan and lifelong Austinite. Follow @HornsIllus twitter to keep up with all things Horns Illustrated.