Four have tried and four have failed.
No. 3 Texas (11-2, 4-0 Big 12) racked up its fourth Big 12 victory and seventh consecutive win after sweeping Texas Tech Wednesday night.
Despite outhitting the Red Raiders .378-.167 for the match, head coach Jerritt Elliott wasn’t pleased with the sloppy volleyball to start the game.
“Well you’re always pleased with a win, but sometimes you’re not going to be playing your best volleyball,” Elliott said. “Our team tried to figure it out as the match went through and I thought we got a lot better.”
The Longhorns fell behind early in the first set as All-American Haley Eckerman struggled to find her rhythm, committing four errors in the set. After using an 8-2 run to tie the set at 15, Texas closed it out with a 10-4 run for a 25-19 set victory.
Following a set which saw the junior outside hitter hit -.083 with four attack errors, Eckerman was benched for the second time this season.
“We’re trying to find some consistency from her and our players know that you’ve got to be able to perform on a daily basis,” Elliott said. “She’s obviously one of the best players in the country and we’re gonna keep teaching her and get her back in the groove.”
The new lineup featured freshman outside hitter Pilar Victoria, who led the Longhorns with four kills in a second set that featured 11 ties. After a back-and-forth tug to get the game to 14-14, Texas responded with another big run to win the set 25-17.
Senior setter Hannah Allison gave the Longhorns a huge boost of energy with a team-high 11 assists in the second frame.
“It was a little flat going in and I think sometimes we start matches trying too hard,” Allison said. “Sometimes just a change, different looks, different vibes just gets people out of their heads.”
Although the third set was close in the early going, Texas took complete control behind senior outside hitter Bailey Webster who tallied seven of her match-high 14 kills in the set to take the win 25-16. Freshman middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu connected on all four of her kill attempts in the set to give her eight for the match.
The Longhorns throttled the Red Raiders on offense all game long despite Texas Tech’s attempt to crowd the net to negate the size disadvantage, but losing the error battle 13-10 proved Texas still has some work to do.
“Obviously its probably the best production we’ve had all year long but [the Red Raiders] scored more than 50 percent of their points from mistakes on our side of the net,” Elliott said. “We just have to do a better job of that, and I think it’s concentration and being a little prepared coming into the match and we’ll regroup tomorrow and get back to it.”
A win is a win, and the offensive dominance bodes well for the Longhorns as they move on to Saturday’s tilt with Kansas in search of their fifth-straight conference win.
“What [the players] haven’t realized yet is that when they get their concentration and their level of determination is all in this is a very good team,” Elliot said. “They’re very good in crunch time and we’ve got to learn how to sustain that.”
The back slide. Texas’ go-to play Wednesday night wasn’t the same as usual. Typically, it’s the “set it anywhere in Haley Eckerman’s area” play, but with Eckerman’s rough start and -.083 hitting percentage, the Longhorns dug deep. The two middles running the back slide, sophomores Molly McCage and Sara Hattis, ended up with a .454 combined hitting percentage.
Sara Hattis. The sophomore is making the most of her opportunities this year. Finding herself behind McCage and senior outside hitter Khat Bell, who is out with a right calf strain injury on the depth chart, it looked as though she was set for another year on the bench. But strong practices gave her the chance and she is making the most of them, hitting .571.
Chloe Collins — After a sloppy start to Game 1 against Texas Tech and a 7-13 deficit, head coach Jerritt Elliott benched the freshman setter in favor of seasoned veteran, senior Hannah Allison. After the change, the Longhorns went on an 8-2 run to tie the game.
Haley Eckerman — After sporting a team-worst -.083 hitting percentage — a negative number as she had more errors than kills — Elliott benched Eckerman for freshman outside hitter Pilar Victoria, who had six kills to complement her improved defense. This is the second home match in which the All-American has been benched.
By the Numbers:
.086 — The hitting percentage for Texas Tech in Game 1. For the Red Raiders, it wasn’t a matter of hitting errors to kill the hitting percentage, but rather the inability to kill a ball.
94 percent — Texas’ side-out percentage in Game 3. Texas Tech won just one point on its serve in the game and 12 in the match, while Texas took 33 points off its serve.
14 — the number of kills for senior outside hitter Bailey Webster. Seven of those came in the final frame.
4 — Big 12 wins for Texas and Big 12 losses for Texas Tech this season.
Quote of the game:
“We are trying to find some consistency from [Eckerman],” Elliott said. “Our players know they need to perform on a daily basis.”