Size, speed pushes top-seeded Volleyball into second round
Dec. 2, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas State did what they could to simulate Texas Volleyball’s size. The Bobcats practiced this week with players standing on boxes, creating a solid wall of bodies on the opposite side of the net.
But there was nothing to match the Longhorns’ speed, and that’s what ultimately led the top-seeded Longhorns to a sweep victory against Texas State in NCAA First Round play on Friday night at Gregory Gym.
Speed is a translation of power, which the Longhorns possess in bunches. With their athleticism, they go after sets and let balls fly to the floor. Left side hitters Haley Eckerman and Bailey Webster combined for 27 kills on .490 hitting to dominate UT’s offensive attack against Texas State, as the Longhorns hit .316 for the match as a team.
“They come up and swing away,” Texas State head coach Karen Chisum said. “We have three pretty good defensive kids back there on the back line, and they really struggled a little bit. They were just a fraction of a second late.”
The Longhorns took hold of the match in the first set, and it started with passing. UT sided-out at 87 percent, and that ball control allowed the Longhorns to produce 14 kills and just two errors. Eckerman, a national freshman of the year candidate playing in her first NCAA Tournament match, set the tone with five kills on seven swings.
“Jerritt (Elliott) said in the beginning, ‘If you don’t have nerves then something is wrong with you,’” Eckerman said. “We kind of got that out. That’s one thing about the first match is we were able to get that out and just work on one game at a time.”
Five service errors contributed to UT’s sputtering rhythm in the second, and Texas State actually held leads at 19-18, 20-19 and 21-20. However, UT’s blocking at the net stiffened, and the Longhorns were able to overpower down the stretch to come away with a 25-23 set win.
Four of UT’s 11 team blocks came in the second.
“We had some advantages there. They get pretty predictable based on their middles being so good,” Elliott said of his team’s blocking.
The Longhorns relied on their left-side attack throughout the match, and it was never more evident than in the third. Webster and Eckerman combined for 17 of UT’s 25 attacks in the set, and that duo was responsible for six of UT’s final eight points.
Eckerman finished with a match-high 16 kills, while Webster contributed 11.
“I think we all just knew that we had to close it out,” Eckerman said. “We practice a lot in situations where we are almost to the end, but we just need to push through. So we’ve been working on that and I think we did a good job of just pushing through.”