Longhorns ease past competition in first home stand

Nick Castillo

In front of a raucous crowd, No. 2 Texas (7-0) rolled past its competition in its home opening tournament this past weekend.

The Longhorns dominated throughout the tournament, beating No. 21 Arizona, Central Florida and Florida A&M.

“I thought we did a really nice job — we played hard,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We had some really good stretches and a lot of good things to build off of. A lot of players got some playing time. We can evaluate some more in terms of our personnel, so we are excited about it.”

The Longhorns opened the tournament with a sweep against No. 21 Arizona (25-19, 25-21, 25-20). Texas seemed jittery in its home opener, letting the Wildcats keep the first and second sets close. But the Longhorns proved to be too much for Arizona to handle, as they recorded 36 kills and 10 blocks.

Senior middle blocker Khat Bell and senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman led the team with eight kills each. Eckerman also recorded a season-high four service aces. Junior middle blocker Molly McCage led the Longhorns with six blocks.

Although Texas made mistakes early on that kept Arizona in the match, Elliott said he liked the team’s response.

“We didn’t get rattled, and that’s a really good sign for me,” Elliott said. “We had a couple of opportunities to really blow this thing wide open. But overall, first time at home and getting used to this environment, it’s going to happen. But we are still early in the season.”

Texas’ win against the Wildcats marked the Longhorns’ second straight win over a ranked opponent.

“It gives us confidence,” McCage said. “Our mentality is still one game at a time. But I think that we have things to work on, so it’s nice to have this under our belt right now, but we’re still working hard.”

Texas carried over its momentum from Friday night to Saturday as it kept its undefeated record intact with sweeps over Central Florida (25-17, 26-24, 25-9) and Florida A&M (25-18, 25-20, 25-13).

Junior outside hitter Amy Neal led the team with 17 kills and 15 digs. Neal’s second-day performance earned her tournament MVP honors. Alongside Neal, Eckerman recorded 14 kills and six aces, sophomore setter Chloe Collins had 40 assists and junior middle blocker Sara Hattis had nine blocks.

After a well-played weekend, the Longhorns will now direct their focus to their match against No. 12 Nebraska on Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska.