No. 4 Volleyball shows quick rebound
Sept. 8, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas – Sarah Palmer found herself on the floor of the volleyball court, in the all black Texas libero uniform, kicking out her limbs and letting out a roar. Behind her, upright, sophomore hitter Haley Eckerman was jumping, pumping and screaming and the 2,750 fans inside Gregory Gym were similarly stirred.
The fourth-ranked Longhorns seized the emotional momentum that had escaped them in their two preceding losses to Penn State and Minnesota, as they rebounded for a four-set victory against the No. 14 Golden Gophers on Friday night.
Minnesota had topped UT in four sets in the first of back-to-back matches on Thursday.
“I was just really pleased at the way we went about our business tonight,” UT head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “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.”
The Longhorns used 6.5 team blocks in the first set to rally for a 25-20 win against a tall and physical Minnesota team. The Golden Gophers took the second set 25-20, as UT was doomed with 10 hitting errors, and the match was tied at one set each as both teams headed into intermission.
“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,” said Eckerman, who finished with a season-high 19 kills. “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.”
UT began the third set with a steely focus, marching out to a quick 5-1 lead. Eckerman threw down a powerful kill and then added a solo block to highlight a 7-0 stretch that put UT ahead 13-5.
In fact, it was that kill-block succession that provided the action to say that the Longhorns were finding their way. The match was defined by diving digs, sliding bump sets and yet still powerful swings out of system.
Eckerman had seven kills and two blocks in the third set, while Bailey Webster added 14 kills for the match.
“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,” Eckerman said. “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, and Bailey and I, or anybody who is swinging out of system, just needs to be smart, keep it in and make them earn the point.”
UT’s ability to absorb a tough loss, and then in a mere 24 hours turn around and make the emotional and physical adjustments to earn a victory bodes well for the young Longhorns as they prepare for Big 12 play and ultimately the NCAA Tournament.
“Today, I thought we were a little bit calmer, our formations were better, we gave ourselves more opportunities and overall the whole environment was better,” Elliott said. “We were a lot more relaxed and not as stressed out or agitated as we were last night.”