Bell’s injury hurts less thanks to deep bench

Chris Hummer

When Khat Bell went down with a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago, it could have been a disaster for the Longhorns. But thankfully for Texas, her teammates, especially those coming off the bench, have filled in nicely as the team has gone 2-0 in its time without her.

“We played well in both of our matches with our new lineup, in having Madelyn Hutson replace Khat Bell,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “I thought we played extremely well against Texas Tech on Wednesday, probably our most solid performance from top to bottom of the whole year.”

Hutson, a freshman, has performed quite adequately replacing Bell. She fits comfortably into the system, contributing four kills in her two games as a starter.

Freshman Haley Eckerman has also stepped up large off the bench helping to ease the loss of Bell. In last week’s games she had a set average of 5.43 kills, while hitting at a .397 clip. These stellar numbers earned her Big 12 Rookie of the Week honors this week and places her firmly in contention for national freshman of the year.

Performances like these from the team’s bench players make the transition to life without Bell much easier.

“We feel good with where we are. We’re having to change a couple of things, but for the most part it’s getting comfortable from a couple of different positions that were added because of the change,” Elliott said. “But overall we’re seeing some good things, especially on Wednesday night.”

The Texas bench isn’t just good. It is deep as well, and that depth helps them pull out matches in which their starters aren’t playing well, as it did on Saturday against Kansas State when the Longhorns used 11 players in a comeback victory.

“It is one of the great things about our program. We have a lot of depth and we have a lot of different lineups that we play throughout the year. Especially in the Big 12 where it’s necessary, and nights like Saturday night prove that,” Elliott said.

Texas’ bench will look to aid the team in keeping its 10-game winning streak rolling tonight against Baylor, which should be an interesting test as the Bears are fighting for their tournament lives.

“Baylor is playing well. They just beat Oklahoma, and they’re fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament, so we know that they will play well,” Elliott said.