Webster’s 15 kills lead UT’S attack
breaks. They made plays when they had to have them and that was the difference.”
Third-seeded Texas (26-4) moves on to the regional final and will play USC, a three-set winner against Wichita State in Friday’s first semifinal match.
The winner of tonight’s match (which begins at 8 p.m.) will advance to the Final Four, which begins Dec. 15 in Louisville.
Texas is making its 29th NCAA Tournament appearance and has won seven straight regional semifinal matches.
“I was a battle, but we knew going in that Florida had played us tough the last time and that they had improved a lot over the duration of the season,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said.
“We are probably a little more seasoned than Florida is – and a little more experienced – and gave us the boost we needed.”
Texas is looking to make its eighth trip to the Final Four and get to the last weekend for the fourth time under Elliott.
The Longhorns got a game-high 15 kills from Bailey Webster, nine kills from Haley Eckerman and eight from Sha’Dare McNeil.
Webster hit .414 in the match while McNeil led both teams by hitting .533 without an error. Texas hit just .290 as Florida’s front line forced the Longhorns into multiple errors.
“Webster just jumped over our three blockers on some of her kills,” Wise said.
“If you are not playing against someone that had that kind of talent, watching that can be a lot of fun – playing against it is not.”
Florida’s attack had plenty of problems of its own with the Texas defense, as the Horns amassed 10.5 blocks, six in the third set when Texas finally found a way to create some separation from the Gators. Florida hit just .173, and was minus-.32 in the third set.
“We were able to communicate well on our defense, especially in the last two sets,” Texas’ Molly McCage said.
“We figured out what Florida was going to try to do and made some adjustments.”
Florida (27-5) was led by Chloe Mann’s 14 kills and .500 hitting percentage. Ziva Recek added 11 kills for the Gators but balanced that with 11 errors and hit .000 for the match.
Elliott expects a tough match against the Tro- jans, who are coached by former Texas coach Mick Haley.
“USC and Texas are a lot alike,” Elliott said. “They have a great libero (Natalie Hagglund) and they are very balanced and experienced.
“We will have to play our best to beat them, but I would rather have them here, at our place, than at theirs.”
Texas’ Molly McCage (left) and Haley Eckerman (right) try to block a spike by Florida’s Tangerine Wiggs on Friday.