UT hopes to stop its run of frustration
All-American Kills Kills/set Hitting Digs Blocks showing off the skills that made her the Big 12 Conference player of the year. Eckerman earned freshman of the year honors, but she struggled to play well consistently during UT’s postseason run, which ended in the Elite Eight. And Bell was forced to offer cheers from the bench after suffering a season-ending knee injury a month before the NCAA playoffs started.
All three are excelling this December, especially Webster.
“It’s going well for us, and I think we just need to work on being consistent and that’s every day,” Webster said. “You can say you’re playing well, but if you don’t show up it’s clearly not a good thing. I think just continuing to play as a team and strengthening our team chemistry is important for us.”
Webster, a 6-3 junior, is hitting .519 in the postseason, with 64 kills and eight blocks. The percentage can be viewed much the same way as a batting average in baseball. Elliott said anything percentage above .275 is excellent.
Eckerman and Bell also exceed the .275 benchmark. Eckerman, a 6-3 sophomore, is hitting .333 in the postseason with 45 kills. She was the national freshman of the year in 2011 after being ranked as the fifth-best recruit in the country coming out of high school.
Eckerman has worked enough on her defense and on handling serves that Elliott usually keeps her on floor when she rotates to the back row. This year, she was the Big 12 player of the year.
“For sure, she’s better able to handle the pressure,” Bell said of Eckerman.
“My volleyball IQ has really gone up,” Eckerman said, in describing the difference between her two seasons.
The 6-1 Bell, who was ranked as the country’s second-best prep recruit when she signed a year ago, is hitting .409 on 34 kills and 12 blocks.
The Longhorns are hitting .405 as a team in the playoffs, which is even more intimidating than their season average of .322, which was No. 1 among the nation’s 328 NCAA Division I teams.
Their power has translated into a relatively easy trip to the Final Four. Texas has dropped only one set in four NCAA tournament matches, even sweeping Southern California last Saturday to make the Final Four.
Michigan, meanwhile, is making its first trip to the Final Four. The Wolverines were sixth best in the powerhouse Big Ten, but they knocked off second-seeded Stanford in California last Saturday.
Stanford is younger than Texas, but nearly as powerful and athletic. Michigan beat the Cardinal in four sets.
“Stanford was (like Texas), too, athletic and big, and we do well against those teams,” said Rosen, “but at the end of the day, you have to match up to some degree.” Haley Eckerman, Texas’sophomore outside hitter, is this season’s Big 12 player of the year. But Bailey Webster, Texas’ junior outside hitter, earned the same honor last year. Comparing the two Longhorns’seasons:
Texas’ Bailey Webster is hitting .519 with 64 kills and 8 blocks in the postseason.