UT Volleyball Hits Its Stride at the Perfect Time
And how it corresponds to season four of 'Mad Men'
By Will Eidam,
10:51AM, Tue. Oct. 19, 2010
The whole Longhorn Nation is atwitter about the big football victory over their revenge-obsessed “rivals” to the north, Nebraska, but there’s more cause for celebration thanks to the No. 11 Texas volleyball program picking up its fourth straight victory, its longest winning streak of the year.
Sunday night, another program picking up its fourth straight victory was AMC’s Mad Men as it wrapped up its fourth season with another spectacular finale. In the world of DVRs and no one actually watching a TV show when it airs, I’ll avoid any spoilers from the finale, but I think it’s safe to say that the entire episode was devoted to characters attempting to make a fresh start.
If that doesn’t sum up Texas’ latest winning streak, I don’t know what does.
On September 27, after the AVCA Coaches Poll ranked Texas 13th in the nation, the lowest ranking given to the Longhorns since 2005, they have since given themselves a fresh start to the season by rattling off four straight victories while only giving up one set during the winning streak.
Much like Mad Men’s Don Draper was in an epic fall early in season four, the Longhorns were in the same kind of funk to begin their 2010 campaign. But all it took was a few easy match-ups to get back into the swing of things.
After losing to No. 3 Nebraska early in October, Texas was blessed with four matches that included the three worst teams in the Big XII, all of whom lost to Texas in 3-0 sweeps. The only set Texas gave up in the four matches was the first set against rival Oklahoma in Norman. Since then, Texas has won nine straight sets over three matches.
Not only should Texas be excited with how easily they’re winning, but also by who is helping them win.
While all of the preseason hype was given to All-America outside hitter Julian Faucette*, it’s been the middle blocker, junior Rachael Adams, who has been commanding the court during the recent string of victories. Of the last six matches, Adams has led or co-led the team in kills, a stat usually reserved for one of the outside hitters (especially if that outside hitter is an All-American).
Not only has Adams taken ownership of this team, but opposite outside hitter to Faucette, Junior Amber Roberson, is performing just as impressively. During Saturday’s 3-0 sweep of Texas Tech, while Adams and Faucette combined for a lowly .077 hitting percentage and only eight kills, Roberson took the team by the horns (pun intended) and went on to hit for a .500 percentage with 17 kills.
After looking at the results from the last six games, the key to Texas’ success for the rest of the season might be to rely less on Faucette, relieve the pressure, and spread the wealth.
In fact, over the season, of all the Longhorns who have 35 sets or more, Faucette has the lowest hitting percentage. While it’s not uncommon for an outside hitter to have a lower percentage than most of her teammates, due to the increased workload compared to other hitters as well as hitting riskier attacks, her .189 percentage is considerably lower than other OH’s around the nation, like No. 1 Florida’s Kristy Jaeckel (.220) and No. 2 Stanford’s Alix Klineman (.397).
Is this going to tie back into Mad Men? Of course. Mid-season, the way Don Draper starts to pick himself out of his epic fall is by trusting Peggy Olson, his copywriter who was once just his secretary. Once again, no spoilers on the finale, but I think it’s OK for me to say that Ms. Olson is the Amber Roberson of the show, both are ready to step up when things are at their bleakest.
Watch as this theory is proven correct over the next two games. Texas gets two more easy match-ups against Kansas (Wednesday) and Kansas State (Friday, in Austin) before Nebraska comes into town on Oct. 27. If Texas does what they’re suppose to do against the Sunflower State teams, and they trust players other than just Faucette, they’ll be riding a six-match winning streak with the Cornhuskers coming to town
If that happens, don’t be surprised if it’s Roberson not only playing the part of Peggy Olson, but also the part of Garrett Gilbert while Adams performs as the front seven defense in a mirror image of Saturday’s football game.