Texas volleyball head coach Jerritt Elliott, right, speaks with Ebony Nwanebu during practice at Gregory Gymnasium Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

BEVO BEAT Volleyball

Texas volleyball team set for home opener

Posted August 31st, 2016

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Senior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame said on Wednesday that the standard for the Texas volleyball team – a program that last failed to reach the NCAA’s national semifinals in 2011 – was perfection.

Texas was not perfect, though, during the opening week of its volleyball season. The Longhorns opened their year with last week’s 3-1 win over Oregon at the VERT Challenge in Eugene, Ore. Texas was then swept the following day by Nebraska, the same team that beat the Longhorns for the NCAA title in 2015.

“I think we learned that we have a lot of work to do,” Prieto Cerame said. “We have a different team than last year. We had a veteran team last year, this year we have a lot of newcomers that are very talented, very experienced, but it’s a different dynamic.

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“It was the first time being tested, and we learned that we need to be a lot more focused, and a lot more disciplined as a team. We’re going to keep working on that. We’re glad that we’re being tested this early.”

Texas will have four tests this week, and they will be administered in a familiar classroom. Texas is set to host Lipscomb and UTSA on Thursday in the American Campus Classic. The home-opening weekend will continue on Friday (Army) and Saturday (Miami).

Junior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu led Texas with 33 kills over last week’s two matches, and Prieto Cerame averaged 3.1 kills per set. There was still a six-foot-two-inch hole at the net as All-American middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu has been sidelined this season by academic issues. Calling Ogbogu’s absence “a huge loss for us,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said that junior Mirta Baselovic and freshmen Orie Agbaji and Blair Westerlund were players that would be asked to step up.

Speaking of Westerlund, she’ll see a familiar face across the net from her on Thursday. UTSA freshman middle hitter Kara Teal was Westerlund’s teammate at Brentwood Christian, and the players led the Bears to a TAPPS title in 2015.

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