Eckerman dominates in Texas sweep of Mountaineers

Nick Castillo

With 18 kills and four aces, senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman propelled No. 5 Texas volleyball (19-1, 11-1 Big 12) to a sweep against West Virginia (13-12, 3-8) on Wednesday night.

“The biggest thing [about tonight’s game] is [West Virginia] was playing a different defense every time,” Eckerman said. “So a lot of the time, the sets were great; Chloe [Collins] and Nicole [Dalton] were both on, and they were leading me and giving me a chance to just swing.”

Eckerman’s 18 kills were the most kills she had in a three-set game this season. Alongside Eckerman’s masterful performance, the team finished the game with a .512 hitting percentage, its highest hitting percentage this season.

“It was a good result for us,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We were basically firing on all cylinders. I liked our personality out there today; I thought it was good. I think we got a good rhythm going.”

Although it was a sweep, West Virginia challenged the Longhorns. After struggling in their first set against Kansas State on Friday, the Longhorns made it a point to open up the first set hot. Texas set out to an early 3-0 lead, but West Virginia edged its way back into the set, tying it at three. The two teams battled throughout the opening set, but Texas was able to separate itself late in the match with back-to-back aces by Eckerman. The Longhorns took the first set 25-20.

The second set played out much like the first set as both West Virginia and Texas refused to give in. But after a tie at 10, the Longhorns were able to pull away from the Mountaineers as they went on a 15-7 run to close out the set and win 25-17.

After the intermission, Texas continued to play well as it opened up an early 4-2 lead. But the Mountaineers kept pressing and were able to get themselves within one. In the end, Longhorns were too much for West Virginia to handle. Texas won the set 25-18 and claimed the match 3-0.

While Eckerman put together a strong performance against West Virginia, junior outside hitter Amy Neal had 16 digs and nine kills, and junior
middle blocker Molly McCage and sophomore outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame each added seven kills to the Texas total.

With the win, the Longhorns will now prepare for No. 24 Oklahoma (17-7, 8-3 Big 12), who swept them earlier this season. Texas and Oklahoma will square off Saturday at 7 p.m. A victory over the Sooners would clench at least a share of the Big 12 title for the Longhorns.