The Longhorn team that came out against the Chinese Club team Zhejiang on Monday night was much different than the team that lost 3-0 to Oklahoma on Saturday.
For one, Texas was without five of its usual starting lineup because of a violation of team rules. But even with key players, such as senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman and senior middle blocker Khat Bell, out, the Longhorns came out with a seemingly strong mentality, winning the first set easily and staying focused in the face of adversity.
In the end, the result was a 3-0 win for a Texas team looking to get back on the winning track.
“I thought we played more relaxed, and we were more steady,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We played as a unit.”
The Longhorns jumped out to a quick 10-4 lead in the first set over the defending champions from China’s National League, thanks in large part to two kills from junior middle blocker Molly McCage and Texas’ blockers. Texas then hung on with a .407 hitting percentage to win the set 25-15.
The second set, however, would prove to be a much tougher fight for Texas. After the Longhorns jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the set, Zhejiang fought back to tie the match at 14, thanks to a 5-1 run, and then took a 20-17 lead trying to even the match.
But the Longhorns fought back with a 6-3 run to tie and then took the set 26-24. Elliott said the most impressive thing at the end of the set was the team just sticking with it.
“I told them at the break that we were down 20-17, and side out, and get some points, and give ourselves a chance and not to get too anxious,” Elliott said.
In the third set, Texas again jumped out to an early 6-2 lead and, while Zhejiang managed to tie the set twice, closed out the match with relative ease with a 25-20 set win.
The Longhorns played the match without five of their usual starters because of a violation of team rules. Eckerman, Bell, freshman libero Cat McCoy, sophomore setter Chloe Collins and sophomore middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu each were held out of the match. Elliott said the players made a mistake but they are moving forward.
“It’s important for us to set the standard of what it is,” Elliott said. “This program has been built over a period of time, and that was my point — that we have to follow the rules.”
The suspensions proved beneficial for players who have struggled to see the court since conference play began. Junior middle blocker Sara Hattis scored six kills, while junior outside hitter Tiffany Baker added five kills and two aces, and junior libero Kat Brooks had 14 digs.
“It says a lot about the program that we have to be able to count on these players and the players that came in and got a chance,” Elliott said.
Texas and Zhejiang will square off again Tuesday at 7 p.m., and, while he said he’s not planning on making many adjustments, Elliott said they will have a better idea of what they did.
“We’ll have a longer look and understand their tendencies,” Elliott said. “We’ll give Mirta [Baselovic] a good shot tomorrow and some different players and take a look at that and go from there.”