No. 2 Volleyball steps forward with season-opening sweep
Aug. 25, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas - The goal is to be the last team standing in December, not the triumphant squad on the first day of the season.
But on Friday night at Gregory Gym, the second-ranked Texas Volleyball team took steps toward achieving both, overwhelming LSU in a three-set sweep in a manner that reflects the Longhorns' poise and determination for the long haul.
UT had just six attack errors on the night and did not allow the Tigers more than 19 points in any set. Haley Eckerman led all hitters with 16 kills, and Bailey Webster added 10 for the Longhorns, who extended their home winning streak to 31 matches.
"Teams are trying to create an identity, and it usually takes a little time," head coach Jerritt Elliott said. "But for us to play the game the way we did tonight, with how we have been focusing on practice, is a good carryover for that. I thought our backcourt did a great job."
Setters Hannah Allison and Nicole Dalton shared responsibility, as the Longhorns showed a 6-2 formation for much of the match. Allison earned 20 assists and Dalton 15, but UT's strong back row play was a key factor in UT's offensive attack, which hit .417 for the match.
Junior libero Sarah Palmer earned 12 digs, and freshman Kat Brooks contributed a match-high 13.
"She is really feisty in the back row and was diving for balls," Palmer said of Brooks. "It was really fun playing next to her and I feel like with her and me next to each other, we know when to go for it with each other and it just flows really well."
UT's intimidating core of middle blockers remains a focal point of the Longhorns' defensive pressure. As a team, UT totaled 10 blocks, and sophomore Khat Bell, who appeared for the first time since last November after a knee injury shortened her freshman season, totaled two solo stuffs and assisted on three more.
McCage did not appear in the season-opening victory, and Hattis played in the third and final stanza.
"We have some pieces that we think are really solid," Elliott said. "Our middle blocking (unit) is really good. We are just trying to figure out a combination there and give those guys some experience and see what they can do in a live situation, which is a little bit different from practice."
LSU hit just .153 for the match, and totaled 36 kills on 111 swings.
"I thought we were consistent for most of the night. We were doing a lot of stuff that we have been doing in practice," Palmer said. "I think a lot of the stuff we have been practicing for these past two and a half weeks has paid off. We just worked really hard during the match, competed really well, and ended up with the win."