The fifth set between Texas and Chinese club team Zhejiang was all about survival.
The two sides, almost deadlocked through the four prior sets, still couldn’t get themselves enough breathing room in the deciding set. Even with three match points, the Longhorns struggled to put away their guests.
But in the span of a couple of seconds, senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman won the match for Texas in a win that felt more like an NCAA Tournament match than an exhibition match.
“You don’t get many opportunities to recreate the urgency and the ability to execute and make some big plays,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said.
The first set saw a bit of a role reversal from Monday night’s match, with Zhejiang jumping out to a quick 10-4 lead and never looking back en route to a 25-20 set win. Texas only managed to hit .048 in the set with 11 attack errors.
“We thought that [Zhejiang] would play better, and we told the team that,” Elliott said. “They controlled the ball better. They’re a good volleyball team.”
Zhejiang took a 12-8 lead in the second set, but Texas then went on a 5-0 run anchored by Eckerman at the serving line. After Zhejiang tied the set at 14, the Longhorns closed out the set on an 11-4 run.
In the start of the third set, neither team was able to grab more than a 2-point lead, but Zhejiang went on a quick 5-1 run to take a 19-15 lead and eventually won the set 25-21.
Needing to force a fifth set, the Longhorns managed to take a 13-8 lead in the fourth and were eventually able to pull off a 25-19 set win.
The fifth set was another tight, back-and-forth affair. The Longhorns took a 13-10 lead but allowed Zhejiang to tie the set four more times before finally winning 18-16.
Eckerman, who was out of Monday night’s game because of a violation of team rules, said that the 3-0 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday helped the team win against Zhejiang.
“The loss to Oklahoma left a bad taste in our mouths,” Eckerman said. “We just need this to know that no matter what lineup is out there, we were going to compete.”
Texas resumes conference play with a trip to Ames, Iowa, to play Iowa State on Sunday.