Web­ster’s 15 kills lead UT’S at­tack


Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - C GUILLERMO HER­NAN­DEZ MARTINEZ / amer­i­can-states­man

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.

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