Tuesday, November 24, 2015

2015 Volleyball Recap

Another season in the books, another year without making the tournament. I had high hopes for the UT Arlington squad this year and there were times when it looked like Mavericks would take the world by storm.

I suppose in some ways, the 19-10 season and 4th place Sun Belt Conference (10-6) finish out of 11 teams is good. It certainly beats the 2008 to 2012 stretch with one winning season. But in the end, we are the Mavericks, the most storied volleyball program in the Belt (and still the Southland Conference) with more NCAA tournament appearances than any team in Texas but two. It would be nice to actually be in contention for a conference title in the last week of the season. We haven't been there in a long, long time.

I guess I should come to terms that we haven't had the caliber of team as we had in the 1980's, with their sweet sixteen, elite eights and a final four. In many ways, I think I have, but I can't let go of the fact that we are in the longest tournament drought in the program's history. When I was a student, we were at the top of the Southland Conference and able to make the NCAA's in any given year. I'm hopeful we can now, but don't have the same feeling that we are a dominant team. I felt we had zero chance against Arkansas State, minimal hope versus Appalachian St and not surprised with the Texas State outcomes. That wasn't the case against any team in the early 2000's.

The team looked good this year in some matches. There were times were I really felt the were the dominant team that could impose their will. But it wasn't every match, not even close. When trouble hit, it came in a predictable manner.

Biggest Wins Ever?

In the last entry, the Maverick Rambler questioned whether the Ohio State win two games ago was the biggest win ever. Short answer was no, it was big, but not number one. Someone questioned if I had changed my stance after last night's 68-64 win at Memphis.

No, not really, cause once again, it hasn't changed anything. I still grant they are very, very big wins and likely could be more as the season progresses.

As we saw in the Louisiana Tech game, the only loss on UTA's ledger, when Kevin Hervey missed most of the second half, the team struggled mightily. There is a deep team under Coach Scott Cross, but without his play inside/out and at both ends of the floor, the Mavericks are likely another .500 Sun Belt team.

So at this point, I just plan to sit back and watch something potentially special this year. Maybe when it is all said and done, I'll consider these two games higher.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Biggest Win Ever?

If you haven't heard about UT Arlington's win over Ohio State Friday night, you either aren't a Maverick fan, have been living in a cave with no wifi or you depend on this blog for all your UTA news, and none of those options are good things.

I experienced some elation with the win just like everyone else, but I feel like there is a lot of over-reaction to this win. Don't get me wrong, it is a big one, certainly a milestone win for the program and head coach Scott Cross. Any win over any P5 team is great, especially the hoity-toity Big 10, as all P5 school's athletic budgets should make them better than UTA. But let me point out a few things that make me tap the brakes.

1) We don't really know how good this Ohio State team is. They lost five seniors and an All-American from a team that won a game in the NCAA tournament. The last time the Buckeyes lost to a Sun Belt team on their home floor, they went 6-22 for year, the worst in their history. Not saying that is going to be the case here, but this wasn't exactly a ranked team.

2) UTAMavs.com lead paragraph called this the biggest win in program history. Really? The biggest? Honestly, what did this win accomplish? I'd call the win over Northwestern State in the 2008 Southland Conference Tournament the biggest win in UTA's history. That actually put UTA in the big one for the first time. It gave us something. The win against Sam Houston State in the 2004 regular season finale, which clinched their first regular season title I could argue was bigger. In the end, if we lose every game from here on out, we gain nothing. If we win every game from here on out, we still would almost guaranteedly have to win the Sun Belt Tournament to advance and play in the NCAA's. A CIT or CBA invite is possible cause of it, but doesn't guarantee anything and we'd certainly have to win more games. Those wins I mentioned before did.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

UTA Football Vol. 3, Game 12: The Championship Game at The Mav

Today is my absolute favorite entry this year. It is a scenario not often seen in UTA's history. Win and the Southland Conference championship resides in Arlington. Lose and the trophy goes somewhere else.

In the early days of the SLC, UTA played a few of these games. However, the 1970's just weren't kind. UTA finished 2nd a few times, but the title was lost early in the conference season. Those early losses meant some teams would have to lose for UTA to get the crown, and oftentimes a bowl berth, and those breaks never happened. It hit Coach Harold "Bud" Elliott harder than any other coach, as he finished one win out of first in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979. Most of those years would have included an Independence Bowl berth had he gotten that extra win.

When we last left the 1981 squad, they had just bounced back from a loss to Arkansas State by beating the Southwestern Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. They still trailed McNeese State (2-0-1) and Arkansas State (2-1) in the standings and the likelihood of both losing was remote. But the second to last week of the season was one of the best for UTA as the Mavericks were playing the league leaders in the MSU Cowboys. The Cowboys had beaten Arkansas State a week prior to the Indians (now Red Wolves) win against UTA and controlled their own destiny. A tie to Lamar was MSU's only blemish.

In a very un-Maverick twist, one of the best kickers in Southland Conference history, Don Stump, had the tying extra point blocked in the fourth quarter after the Cowboys drove for the score down seven by UTA's Brent Hargrove. Then, MSU drove down to ten yard line and with 17 seconds left and Stump missed the game-winner. For a top SLC guy to miss not one, but two kicks just never happened to UTA. They rarely got those kind of breaks, it was usually the other way around.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

School Spirit

Nothing much to this one, but I'm going to use my blogger to express my Maverick pride. I usually save this space for objective analysis of the Maverick teams. But after seeing the turnout yesterday for the women's season opener in Waco on Friday, the atmosphere at College Park Center for the homecoming game against Fordham on Saturday and volleyball setting a season attendance record this year, I just feel the Mavericks sports programs are no longer the best kept secret on campus.

Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey noticed the UTA students in the season opener.

"Compliment your students. I was so impressed. There had to be three-to-five hundred students up there and you outnumbered Baylor students. It sends a message to Baylor students. You have the number five team in the country and UTA students outnumber you."

Impressive indeed.

Great turnout for the men's game against Fordham. 3,868 reported for the season opening 77-72 win. Electric atmosphere's like that really propel a team to victory. Victories propel a following and attendance.

Now I get that those are all surrounding homecoming and may not be representative of the overall state of support. I respond in two ways. One, it never was like that when I was a student around homecoming and, two, it's not just homecoming. There seems to be an increasing following and it has been increasing this year.

UTA had over 2,000 to see a volleyball match this year. They are 628 fans away in Sunday's match from hitting 10,000 total attendance this year. That would set a record and they are doing it with 13 total matches. Last year saw 17 at College Park Center.

Just gotta say, feels good to be a Maverick right now.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

UTA Football Vol. 3, Game 11: That's a Wrap

When it comes to the 1959 season, I admit I don't know everything. UTA, or rather Arlington State College, had just began their transition to a four-year school and played seven games. I know Coach Claude "Chena" Gilstrap wanted to schedule eight games, but only seven were played. I'm not sure if there was a limit to the number of games or if that's just how hard it was in the race to schedule competition. Now, the NCAA has transitional periods stretching years in advance, but I don't know the rules from over 50 years ago. Coach Gilstrap was quick to the joke about being three-year national champions, so maybe there were some rules in place regarding moving up. Again, I just don't know.

After the season opening win against Southeastern Oklahoma State, the Rebels had hit a wall, losing three in a row to some more established schools, with two names that would become familiar to the University down the line, Sam Houston and Northeast Louisiana (ULM), along with Texas A&I (A&M-Kingsville).

But then the Rebels patched together a two-game winning streak heading into the final game of the season, beating Texas Lutheran and the University that would later become Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (funny to think that the Southland Conference once had three schools that once had the sport, but didn't compete at that time).

There's nothing spectacular about today, other than being the last game of the first University season in Arlington. The Rebels opened the season against Southeastern Oklahoma State at home, they would end it against Southwestern Oklahoma State at home.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

UTA Football Vol. 3, Game 10: The Start of a Run

As we enter the November month, college football's best comes to the forefront. Sure there are some great games prior, but championships and bowl berths are won in November. That means some great memorable games to make that happen take place. Sadly for UT Arlington, the season was usually lost before the month started since the 1970's.

That seemed the case in 1981 as well. The Mavericks started the year 1-4, doing the thing they usually do, playing a tough schedule, most of it on the road, to start the season. All four losses were away from Maverick Stadium, two to Southwest Conference schools, one to Southern Mississippi, an independent who would finish the year 19th in the coaches poll and an equal in West Texas State. The lone win was at The Mav versus New Mexico State.

Attendance followed the similar path as previous UTA teams. Okay for the first game, then a dip after returning to Arlington with a losing record. Then they'd be competitive in the SLC, but a loss would make a championship run tough, causing the final games of the season to be paltry, ending in a middle of the pack finish in the conference standings.

1981 was the aberration, however, for reasons both within and beyond UTA's control. After returning home 1-4, they beat Louisiana Tech in the Southland Conference opener, a feat not accomplished often prior, and, where we last checked in, beat North Texas at the Cotton Bowl. At 3-4 and, more importantly, 1-0 in SLC things were starting to look up.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Another UTA Football History Lesson

Got into a discussion with someone recently who thought I portrayed former Coach Harold "Bud" Elliott a little unfairly in some of my This Day in UTA Football entries. It was a good discussion and I asked if he'd be opposed to me bringing the topic here and he said he'd look forward to reading it.

First, a little background. Coach Elliott was the fourth head coach to roam the UT-Arlington sidelines since the school went to four year status. He was hired in 1974 (you can read about his first game here) and coached ten seasons. He began the fourth year after UTA had transitioned to the highest level of college football. His career record was 48-64.

I have said before I consider his body of work at UTA a prime example of mediocrity. Four years of 5-6, only two winning seasons (9-2 and a barely winning 6-5), one conference championship and no postseason appearances.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Should the Women's Game at Baylor be Considered Part of Homecoming Week?

I happened to be reading one of my more visited websites when I came across an article in the Shorthorn (for those not affiliated with UTA, it is the student newspaper) from a guy I have a great deal of respect for, Jesse DeTienne. He is as great a Maverick supporter as I and goes to far more games than I can. I've been a Maverick longer, but only cause I'm older.

He wrote a guest column questioning the fact that UTA is promoting the women's game at Baylor during homecoming week. Click on the link and read it. Go ahead. I'll wait.

From a cursory glance, I get what he is saying. All the festivities are on campus and do not require extensive travel, usually just getting to the University. But I think he is missing the forest for the trees.