No. 4 Volleyball takes four-set win against No. 14 Minnesota
AUSTIN, Texas -- Sophomore All-America outside hitter Haley Eckerman used a season-high 19 kills and one service ace to lead the No. 4 Texas Longhorns in their 3-1 win over No. 14 Minnesota (25-20, 20-25, 25-22, 25-21) Friday night at Gregory Gym. Junior All-America Bailey Webster added 14 kills as the Longhorns improved to 6-2, handing the Golden Gophers (7-1) their first loss this season.
Eckerman, who had a .289 night (19-6-45), also posted one assist, two digs and three blocks, while Webster added three digs and four blocks. Freshman outside hitter/setter Nicole Dalton and junior setter Hannah Allison notched 19 assists apiece, with Dalton contributing 13 digs and four blocks and Allison tying her career best with 11 digs.
The Golden Gophers were led by Katherine Harms, who posted 12 kills while hitting .357 (12-2-28). Tori Dixon, who hit .320 (12-4-25), also finished with 12 kills for Minnesota.
The Horns held Minnesota to a .037 hitting percentage in the first set while out-blocking the Golden Gophers 6.5-2. Midway through the set, UT launched a 4-0 run initiated by Eckerman's service ace, leaving Texas up 15-9 and ultimately closed out the set on a kill by Dalton.
Minnesota led early in the second set and hung on to the lead throughout. Despite Webster's four kills, Minnesota won the set with three straight points, including a service ace by Dixon to put the Gophers in set point position.
The momentum shifted early in the third. Leading 6-5, the Horns posted seven unanswered points as part of an 11-1 run, punctuated by two kills from Eckerman. Down 20-9, Minnesota used a 9-1 run of its own to climb back into the set, but Eckerman had the last two of her seven kills on the set to give the advantage to the Longhorns. After Molly McCage put UT ahead by a 16-14 lead in the fourth set, Eckerman would figure with the next four points for the Longhorns to help Texas pull away for the victory.
The Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational takes place next week at Gregory Gym, Friday and Saturday (Sept. 14 and 15). The tournament, hosted by Texas, features Cincinnati, last year's NCAA runners-up Illinois and UCF. UCF and Cincinnati will open play on Friday at 2:30 p.m. while Texas and Illinois plays at 6 p.m. The Texas-Illinois match will feature a live broadcast on Longhorn Network. Gametracker live stats along with an audio webcast will be available on TexasSports.com and live Twitter updates @TexasVolleyball.
Notes: Texas has not lost back-to-back matches at home since the 2003 season (November 8 vs. Kansas and November 19 vs. Colorado)...Haley Eckerman's previous season high for kills was 16, registered twice (last time vs. Florida on Aug. 31)...Eckerman's 22.5 points tonight was a season best...Nicole Dalton tied her season high for digs (13)...Hannah Allison tied her career high of 11 digs, set against Long Beach State (Sept. 4, 2010)...Sha'Dare McNeal set a season high for blocks (five) with her previous best being four blocks (recorded twice this season)...Molly McCage set a season high for kills (five)...Minnesota leads the all-time series with Texas by a 4-3 margin.
MINN 20-25-22-21 TEXAS 25-20-25-25
Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott
On difference between last night's match and tonight: I was just really pleased at the way we went about our business tonight. I thought we were relaxed, I thought we were going to have a nice pass and serve, and we just came to the game ready to play. We watched the film for some of the areas we were deficient last night, but we also tried to make sure our team was in a positive and upbeat mood going into this match. I thought we did an excellent job. I thought our block was significantly better tonight in terms of being able to funnel and not getting beat in the seams as much. Also, our defense behind the block was a lot better. We just played it steady. I thought we fought hard and it showed me a lot about this team and how they resolved and fought back.
On how playing a ranked team back-to-back helps for postseason: It is great for us. First of all, it shows us what we need to do for conditioning because this is our second to last opportunity to play back-to-back nights. So getting our team focused on understanding that and learning how to make adjustments with a one-day separation is important. The mental side is really a key for us to be successful when that time comes.
On adjustments between yesterday and today: The big one was our block. Our middles were biting a lot and kind of just moving and not doing a good job in terms of reading and making moves last night. And then our pin blockers, the right and the left side, were chasing a lot. They weren't identifying areas that when no one was in their zone to step out, close down, and pick better spots. Last night, we really struggled in those areas. Therefore, I thought our defense could get a lot better. Our defense was moving a lot yesterday and we weren't as consistent. Today, I thought we were a little bit calmer, our formations were better, we gave us some more opportunities, and overall the whole environment was better. We were a lot more relaxed and not as stressed out or agitated as we were last night.
Sophomore outside hitter Haley Eckerman
On the big Texas lead in the third set: We were just trying to get momentum. We knew that it wasn't going to take just one play for us to win the whole thing and we kept thinking just one point at a time, one point at a time. We just needed to do the basics that we watched in film like Coach Elliott said and make sure what we were doing as individuals.
On why the team is effective in making points even with non-perfect hits and sets: I think that is something that we have been working on in practice. Going for everything, not letting the ball drop, and fighting for each of our teammates. If one person dives that means that you're making the sacrifice to get that ball for everyone else on the team. That is something that we work on in practices, such as out-of-systems. That's how Bailey Webster and I and anybody else who is swinging out-of-system need to be smart and just keep it in and make them earn the point.