The visiting team becomes green with envy while the home team is on an emotional high following a nostalgic look back at their successful season. It’s a deadly combination, particularly when facing the current No. 1 team in the nation.
Well, this Longhorn volleyball team need not worry about such predeterminations.
The defending champion Texas Longhorns overcame a 2-1 hole and defeated the No. 1-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in five sets (25-27, 25-17, 13-25, 25-21, 15-10) in front of a sellout crowd of 4,373 at Gregory Gym.
Every burnt-orange shirt in the raucous sellout crowd was on his or her feet before the final point to close out the game. The Horns finished with a 6-2 run in the final set to give Texas the 3-2 victory.
“It was a really good match for the second week of the year,” head coach Jerritt Elliot said. “I felt we had a good rhythm and were in control for much of the time. I’m just really pleased with the performance.”
Junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman led the Longhorns with a team-high 15 kills on 39 attempts.
Chloe Collins and Amy Neal both finished with double-doubles, with Collins posting 22 assists and 16 digs, and Neal finishing with 10 kills and 20 digs.
Touted as a potential precursor to the national championship, neither team led by more than three in the first set, which included 14 ties and eight lead changes.
The second and third sets were dominated by the Horns and Lions respectively, with the teams winning by a combined 20 points and the Lions taking a 2-1 lead.
“We just had to forget about game three and start off strongly,” senior setter Hannah Allison said. “People made less errors and we just fought.”
The Horns weren’t without help on the blocks, as sophomore middle blocker Molly McCage finished with a match-high six blocks.
Despite the pregame ceremony, the Longhorns didn’t seem phased by the pregame festivities, winning the first two points of the match.
“This is a new team,” Elliot said. “So they still have to go out and earn victories and develop as a team.”
The first serve of the game flew out of bounds, which set the tone for Penn State’s serving troubles throughout the game. Penn State would finish the game with 22 service errors.
For Penn State, Micha Hancock finished with a match-high 51 assists, and Deja McClendon recorded 20 kills to go along with 17 digs.
This match was the first of the Nike Big Four Classic, which pits four of the top-rated volleyball programs against one another at Gregory Gym.
In addition to Texas and Penn State, this year’s invitees include Florida and Stanford.
Texas will play No. 2-ranked Stanford Sunday at 3 p.m.
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