(Image via TexasSports.com)
AUSTIN, Texas – No. 3 Texas Volleyball (23-2, 15-1) closed out its regular season with a 3-2 (28-26, 20-25, 23-25, 25-22, 12-15) loss to No. 6 Florida (25-3) on senior night.
Senior Haley Eckerman led the Longhorns in kills with 19, hitting .286 , while fellow senior Khat Bell was not far behind with 14 kills for a .357 hitting percentage.
Sophomore Chiaka Ogbogu led all players in blocks with seven, while freshman Cat McCoy posted 20 digs and junior Amy Neal added 11.
As a team, Florida out-hit Texas, .304 to .248, breaking a streak of 48-straight matches in which the Longhorns out-hit their opponent.
The Horns played in front of 14th-largest all-time crowd with an attendance of 4,276.
Texas and Florida kept it tight in the first set, going point-for-point until a block by Ogbogu and Bell, along with two Florida errors, gave the Horns a 24-22 lead. The Gators fought back to keep the set alive, but the Horns solidified the 28-26 win with a kill from Eckerman.
Florida struck first in the second set and kept the lead to pull ahead, 5-1. A back-to-back kill and ace from Eckerman put the Longhorns back in the mix, closing the gap to 6-5, Gators. Another close match between the two teams, Florida continued to hold the lead by as much as eight. The Horns edged back to 24-20, but the Gators clinched with a block for the win.
The Horns came out hot in the third set, leading 4-1 to start. Florida tied it up at 14 and the two teams traded points until Texas regained the lead at 22-21. The Gators answered quickly with two points and a Texas service error for set point. Florida kept its momentum, winning on a service ace, 25-23.
In the fourth set, both teams came out determined, with Texas taking an early 6-4 lead. Kills from Bell, junior Amy Neal, and sophomore Paulina Prieto Cerame helped the Horns keep the lead 12-9. Florida came from behind to close the gap at 17-all. Big kills from Ogbogu and Eckerman set Texas up at 20-18. Texas forced a fifth set, winning 25-22.
Texas came out with a block from Ogbogu to start the fifth set, but Florida took the lead with a kill and block back-to-back to an 8-6 advantage. The Gators gained on the Horns to an 11-7 lead, but a block from Ogbogu and a kill from Eckerman cut the lead to 11-9. Texas continued to fight from behind, but Florida kept its momentum and beat the Horns 15-12 to win the match.
Alex Holston led Florida with 32 points, 29 kills, and 4 digs.
The Longhorns will learn their fate of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. during the Selection Show. The show will be televised live on ESPNU or at this link: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/id/2100542/2014-ncaa-women-volleyball-championship-selection-show-presented-northwestern-mutual
Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott
On losing the game: Well I think it was a tough match, I think Florida played extremely well. We just weren’t very efficient from the start from the service line or serve receive line. We made mistakes late in the games, but I think it’s something we can learn from and grow from and keep moving. We knew this was going to be a tough match--that’s why we scheduled it. This was a kind of final four-caliber match and I liked what our team’s personality was down the stretch. At the end of the day, Florida just did extremely well. And when a team is that hot and playing that way, it’s tough to battle.
On winning game one even with running out of substitutions: It’s something we train for in our gym and we have a few more rotations to go before we were completely out. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it was important to obviously win the first game and take control of the match and we just came out extremely slow in game two and were down 5-1 and had some tough calls that didn’t go our way.
On Florida being better: I thought their defense was really good and their passing was exceptional. Their out of system game was just better, some of their pin hitters we couldn’t control. Snyder was very efficient hitting .343 and Holston was playing lights out, and when you have two players playing that hot hitting .429 and .343, its going to be tough.
Texas Middle Blocker Chiaka Ogbogu
On getting this kind of experience going into the post season: I think if anything, this is going to make us hungrier and realize that this year, anyone can win the National Championship. I feel like once we get back in the gym, we will know that it isn’t just going to be handed to us.