Tough schedule has tested us
It's hard to believe I have just experienced my last nonconference season. Not only was it the final “preseason’’ of my collegiate career, it was also one of the toughest schedules imaginable.
In our first eight matches of the year, we played five ranked teams, including the Nos. 1 and 2 -- Penn State and Stanford. We also played on the road at Hawaii to begin the year. In the tournament at Hawaii, we also played a then-non-ranked San Diego team.
We finished our nonconference slate with a 6-2 record, with our losses coming at Hawaii and against Arizona State in Illinois. Coach Elliott continually stressed to us that he set up the early portion of our schedule to be as difficult as possible. He and the staff wanted to test us, because playing the best helps us become the best. The top volleyball teams find ways to expose our weaknesses, and that gives us motivation to improve in those areas during practice.
Overall, this year's preseason was filled with a lot of excitement, along with many ups and downs. Coming into this new season as a new team, we knew we would be facing everyone's "A" game with a huge target on our backs. Our opponents love the chance to send the defending national champs to a loss, and boy, has it shown.
We were in many tough matches throughout the preseason, and sometimes it wasn't because we were necessarily playing horribly but because our opponents were doing some really good things. All of this was to be expected after we won the NCAA championship last year, and we have learned to embrace the challenge.
Although we faced this challenge in almost every match during the preseason, it is still to be expected in the Big 12 Conference portion of our schedule.
We began conference play on the road at TCU last week, and it was an incredible environment. Their arena was at maximum capacity, and it was an exciting atmosphere for everyone to play in. We came home from Fort Worth with our first conference victory, and we carried that into a second-straight 3-0 win against Oklahoma last weekend.
Speaking of incredible environments, I would like to thank the Texas fans for all of their continued support. Our first three home matches of the year against Penn State, Stanford and Nebraska were sellouts, and we had more than 4,000 fans in the stands when we hosted Oklahoma. Gregory Gym has become a thrilling atmosphere, and our fans are a large reason why.
Also, not only are our fans supporting us every step of the way, but so are our fellow student-athletes. Our women's soccer and women's basketball teams can always be found in the stands, and our men's swimming and diving team is also known to show up on occasion.
If you haven't seen the men's swimmers take off one item of clothing for each point -- one sock at a time, pants, shorts, sweatshirts, T-shirts -- until they're down to just their competition uniform, then that's just one of the many reasons why you need to come out to a match!
Until next time, let the games continue!