Jhenna Gabriel, the longtime starting setter at Texas, announced on Wednesday that she is stepping away from the Longhorns and the sport of volleyball.
This departure is viewed as a retirement for Gabriel, who just started her second semester of graduate school at Texas. The 5-8 setter has one year of eligibility left. She will not enter the transfer portal.
In a post on Instagram, Gabriel stated that “I have made the decision to step away from collegiate volleyball to prioritize my mental health and well-being. While I have been honored to be a part of this amazing program, being a collegiate athlete is something that takes a toll on athletes’ mental health more than we know.”
In her Instagram post, Gabriel also thanked her teammates, coaches and fans at Texas. While at Texas, Gabriel said she “lived out a dream that I didn’t even think was possible.”
“I took a chance coming to Texas, choosing not to listen to everyone telling me I wasn’t good enough to be here,” Gabriel wrote. “Little did they know I would earn my way into a starting spot for one of the best programs in the country, have the opportunity to set a handful of All-Americans, and in the process become one myself.”
A late addition to UT’s 2018 recruiting class, Gabriel arrived at Texas as an unheralded prospect out of Hawaii who didn’t have a set position. She was recruited as both a setter and libero.
During her freshman year, Gabriel quickly established herself as the team’s backup setter. Then in the third set of a match against TCU on Halloween, Gabriel replaced starter Ashley Shook and led Texas to a win. She held onto that starting job for UT’s next 94 matches.
Over the past three seasons, Gabriel earned all-conference honors on three occasions. She was named the Big 12’s Setter of the Year and an AVCA All-American during the 2020-21 season. Gabriel’s 3,491 career assists rank sixth in the Texas record book.
This past season, the fiery Gabriel averaged 9.43 assists per set. She also served a career-high 22 aces.
Said Jerritt Elliott during UT’s run to the fourth round of the NCAA Tournament: “She’s a remarkable story. The way she came in and she earned the starting spot and then she was in a position to learn on the court and develop. I think now she really has a good grasp of what is going on. We’re talking a lot during the match in terms of what teams are doing and she’s usually one step ahead of me. … We have a lot of confidence in what she can do and she’s setting the best she’s ever set.”
With Gabriel gone, Texas will likely turn over its offense to Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres. A fifth-year senior, Ka’aha’aina-Torres earned some playing time this past season following a transfer from Utah. As a junior, Ka’aha’aina-Torres led the Pac-12 in assists.
The Longhorns, however, have no depth behind Ka’aha’aina-Torres. This offseason, second-year setter Naomi Cabello transferred to North Carolina State and UT did not sign any setters in its 2022 recruiting class.