Eckerman highlights Volleyball's steadying hand
Oct. 29, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- The ninth-ranked Texas Longhorns needed a big swing, and freshman Haley Eckerman took it, even if momentum suggested that she shouldn’t.
After rolling through the opening set, UT had already squandered two set points in the second, including one on an Eckerman attack error. But when UT went up 27-26, Eckerman took the ball behind the service line, and rifled an ace to give the Longhorns the set win.
The Longhorns went on to a straight-sets victory against No. 14 Iowa State, which vaulted the Longhorns into first place alone in the Big 12 race.
“Haley struggled at the end of that game, but she went back and served a bomb,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “It showed a lot of her character and what an athlete she is. To be a great team, you’ve got to be good in the clutch, and I thought we were tonight.”
Bailey Webster and Khat Bell each finished with 13 kills to lead the Longhorns, and Eckerman added 10. UT hit .390 for the match and also used 9.0 team blocks to hold the Cyclones to just .179 hitting.
This victory comes almost four weeks from UT’s emotional five-set win at Iowa State on Oct. 2. The Longhorns were coming off a road loss at Oklahoma and then were forced to a fifth set by the Cyclones after UT went up 2-0.
“We’re a totally different team than at the beginning of the season, and it’s a good thing,” Webster said. “We were still trying to find ourselves, and now I feel like we’re hitting our groove. We’ve grown.”
Elliott says the Longhorns' greatest growth during this stretch has been their efficiency.
"We aren't shooting ourselves in the foot as much," he said.
And UT proved that early against Iowa State, rolling to a 25-14 win in the first set by hitting .483. Bell, who is finding her groove in the middle blocker position, was perfect in the first, totaling four kills on just four swings.
“Going in, we knew we were tied for first place. Our goal, first off, is to win Big 12. So to get past Iowa State was just us taking a step closer to winning the Big 12,” Eckerman said. “That’s what Jerritt talks about a lot is setting the tone early.”
UT had only 10 errors on 105 swings and closed out the final set on a 7-3 run.
“I thought we did some really good things,” Elliott said. “I’ve seen some growth from our team in different areas, and I think they’re getting more confident. We’re a lot more efficient, not shooting ourselves in the foot as much. I like the mentality of the team.”