Volleyball advances to NCAA Gainesville Regional with second-round sweep of LSU
AUSTIN, Texas -- The third-ranked and fourth-seeded Texas Volleyball team used four double-digit kill performances to sweep LSU in the NCAA Second Round, Saturday night at Gregory Gymnasium. The Longhorns, 30-21, 30-22, 30-23 victory advances the Longhorns to the NCAA Gainesville Regional where it will take on 13th-seeded Florida.
Texas out-hit LSU .383-to-.163 in the win and out-blocked the Tigers 15.5-to-6.0. Sophomore opposite hitter Ashley Engle paced the Texas attack on the night with 11 kills on .364 hitting, 13 digs and four total blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Destinee Hooker led all Longhorns with a team-high 12 kills on .375 hitting, while senior setter Michelle Moriarty registered a team-best seven total blocks.
In game one, Texas fell behind early, but used a 4-0 run capped by a pair of Hooker kills to claim a 5-4 advantage. The Longhorns widened the lead to five at the 14-9 mark on a kill by Engle and pushed the lead to 23-15 on back-to-back blocks by Moriarty and senior middle blocker Brandy Magee. Texas widened the margin to 10 late in the game and eventually closed out the game, 30-21 on an LSU service error.
Junior middle blocker Lauren Paolini recorded two kills and a block early in the second frame, aiding a 5-0 Texas run that pushed UT's lead to 9-4. The Tigers battled back to narrow the lead to four at the 16-12 mark, but a 3-0 Horns' rally pushed the UT lead back to 19-12. Texas put the game away behind a 7-1 run capped by an Engle/Magee block that moved the Horns' edge to 27-17. Paolini closed out the game, 30-22 with her third kill of the frame and gave UT a 2-0 edge.
In the third stanza, Texas fell behind early, but rallied to reclaim the lead on an Engle/Magee block at the 12-11 mark. The Tigers put together a 4-1 run to even the game at 18, however, the Longhorns responded with a 6-1 run capped by a kill and two blocks by Hooker to take a 24-19 edge. LSU narrowed the UT lead to three at 25-22, but three Hooker kills down the stretch sealed the game, 30-23.
Freshman outside hitter Juliann Faucette tallied 10 kills, a .304 hitting percentage and 16 digs in the win, while Magee hit .692 and posted 10 kills and six block assists. Senior libero Alyson Jennings steadied the Texas defense with 14 digs and Moriarty posted an assist/dig double-double with 44 assists and 10 digs.
Texas returns to action Friday, Dec. 7 when it travels to the NCAA Gainesville Regional and takes on the University of Florida in the Regional semifinals.
On the defense: It helps when you have a lot of experience returning with players who have been in the system. We've gotten bigger, our players have really developed in every position and our strength in blocking has really helped us out. We've been able to clog the center of the court a lot more and get good quality touches. Tonight was just a completely different rhythm from LSU than we had against Texas State last night. It was a little bit slower and we had to have a little better balance in getting it over the net, but overall our defensive movement and positioning has been getting significantly better. Our commitment to being stopped and balanced and our reading overall has been very good. We've had exceptional transition from our pins, whether it's Ashley, Destinee or Juliann from the back court or our left side is out of system and doing a good job in terms of location, speed or their approaches. They are really taking the block out of it.
On LSU playing the best they could: I go back to what I said last night. There are a lot of benefits from being recognized as a number one seed, but you're going to get everybody's best shot. They are coming in extremely focused and motivated. Everybody works the whole year long to get to this point and play in these kind of matches, so if a team didn't show up, it would be pretty disappointing. I thought they played really well and in the third game they just passed very well. They were able to stay in rhythm and we finally broke them in the serve/receive and really started putting some points together. When we are siding out like we did that means they have to be almost perfect all the way through.
SENIOR MIDDLE BLOCKER Brandy Magee
SENIOR SETTER Michelle Moriarty
On how tough road matches during the regular season will help when playing Florida at Florida: I think the way our preseason was set up was really good for us where we went to Penn State. It was a really fun environment, they had tons of fans, it was loud and really exciting. I think it was good for us for this reason exactly. We've been there before, we know what to expect and so we're ready. We have a lot of confidence, we've played well, but we also know that Florida is a very good team.
SOPHOMORE RIGHT SIDE Ashley Engle
On the extra practice Destinee has put in on her serve: She has been out there before practice working on it. A lot of the girls on our team are really dedicated. We are out there for a long time and then they will come in extra to try to help their own game. She has been one of those people and it is showing.
LSU HEAD COACH FRAN FLORY
On their game plan going into tonight: We knew we were going to take a risk serving. We felt like we had to get them out of their offensive system because we needed to create a better match up for our blockers. We had a serving strategy coupled with a blocking strategy that let us release our middles based on where we were serving. It works sometimes, but tonight it didn't. You have to get Texas out of system because they have too many weapons so we just had to go for it. We had to try to serve as tough and aggressively as we can and hope for the best. Unfortunately the best was 14 errors and you're not going to beat many teams with that.
On the upcoming matchup between Texas and Florida: Texas' pin players are better. If Texas can get their middles in the right situation, they will be successful against Florida. But I will say that playing at Florida is one of the toughest places to play. Florida on their home court has a great deal of confidence and they play with a chip on their shoulder similar to the way Texas plays at home. The Texas team is going to have to be ready for that match with a different mentality on an away court. Florida lost Marcie Hampton earlier this season, and that is a huge loss for them, but they have a bunch of seniors on a mission too. I think it is going to be a tight match, and I think it's going to be a match that is won at and above the net. That is going to be the determining factor in my opinion.
JUNIOR LIBERO ELENA MARTINEZ