Bring on some noise! Elliott optimistic about tough-luck Texas

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Texas coach Jerritt Elliott talks to his Longhorns during a timeout at the 2016 NCAA Championship/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Get some ear plugs. More on that in a bit.

But first, Texas volleyball, a program that has been so close every year since winning it all in 2012.

On one hand, to have even been there last December was a tremendous achievement.

On the other, losing to Stanford in the NCAA national-championship match was awfully tough for the Longhorns.

“Yeah, it’s a cruel profession, but it’s a revolving door,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “You don’t have much time to sulk. You have to get back to it.

“Looking back on the last two seasons, obviously it’s been devastating but it’s also been very rewarding.”

The Longhorns, he said, constantly made positive adjustments.

“The team overcame a lot of adversity and they made it happen to get there,” he said.

The Longhorns have had a tough end to their seasons the past four years.

They went 27-3 in 2013 but it ended with a four-set loss to Wisconsin in the national semifinals.

In 2014, Texas was 27-3 again, but ran into a BYU buzzsaw and lost in four in the national semifinals.

In 2015, a team that went 30-3 was swept in the national-title match to Nebraska.

And then in December, after a season that started with the loss of All-American middle Chiaka Ogbogu — who was academically ineligible — the Longhorns sustained two Big 12 losses and finished 27-5. That included escaping with a five-set victory over BYU and sweeping Creighton in the NCAA regional before sweeping Nebraska in the semifinals in Columbus.

But Stanford, seemingly a team of destiny fueled by a remarkable performance from senior middle Inky Ajanaku and the play of four outstanding freshmen, beat Texas in four.

“It’s the way the game plays. It’s not only how good you are, but how good the other teams are and how good they play,” Elliott said. “You just have to focus on what you’re doing and move on and right now I’m more excited than I’ve ever been.

“We’ve got a scary group coming back and the gym is going to be the most competitive we’ve ever had. People may not realize with Chiaka back what that does for our lineup. We’ve got a lot of potential there.”

While Texas lost diminutive but high-jumping speedy setter Chloe Collins, Elliott has a special setter coming in in 6-foot-2 Ashley Shook. And the class includes VolleyballMag.com prep player of the year in 6-3 outside Lexi Sun and 6-4 middle Brionne Butler, who enrolled for the spring semester.

Sun, Elliott said, is “really good,” Elliott said. “And the player no one talks about is Ashley Shook. I think she’s going to make a dramatic impact. She has the ability to do so many things. She’s a threat in so many ways with her size and her dumping ability.”

Getting Ogbogu back, seeing the strong improvement last season of Morgan Johnson, her replacement at middle, watching outside Micaya White become the VolleyballMag.com national freshman of the year, and the arrival of a stellar freshman class makes Elliott pretty optimistic.

“It’s exciting,” he said.

Texas aside, Elliott said: “We have to continue to grow the game.

“We’ve got so much momentum right now and there are some neat things we can do with our fan base.”

Elliott said he wants to allow noisemakers into matches.

“When you talk about the Olympic Games, the one sport that everybody talked about was beach volleyball,” he said. “Because it was a party atmosphere and it was fun. So we’ve got that ability with our sport right now with how good the volleyball is to create a different model and continue to grow the fan base.”

Perish the thought, cowbells like at Mississippi State?

“No, not cowbells, but maybe thunder sticks, maybe some more drums, just more.”

And, he promised, the Texas pep band “will be bigger and we’re changing the format.”

As if it’s not loud enough in Gregory Gym.

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