Horns sweep Rams to advance to regional final

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If there were any doubts that the six-day layoff between the second-round win over Arizona State would hurt the Longhorns, they were put away pretty quickly on Friday.

Behind three kills by senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman in the first seven points of the match, No. 2 seed Texas set the tone of the regional semifinal early on and kept pouring it on against No. 15 seed Colorado State for the sweep to advance to the regional final with a chance to get back to the Final Four.

After taking the quick 6-1 lead in the first set, the Longhorns survived numerous attempts by the Rams to get back into the set. Colorado State initially answered with a 3-1 run to cut the deficit to 10-8. Then after Texas went on a 3-1 run, the Rams answered with a 5-2 run to get the Longhorn lead down to 21-19. However, following a timeout, Texas rolled on with a 4-0 run, including two aces by sophomore setter Nicole Dalton, to take the set 25-19.

The second set started out in similar fashion as the Longhorns jumped out to a 5-2 lead, but the Rams immediately answered with a 4-0 run to take their first lead at 6-5. After going back-and-forth for a few points, Texas broke away with a 9-3 run to take a 19-13 lead en route to a 25-18 set win and a 2-0 match lead.

The third set followed a similar path as the Longhorns broke out of the intermission break with a 6-2 lead, only for the Rams to answer with a 6-0 run to take an 8-6 lead. But the Texas came right back with a 4-0 run of its own to take a 10-8 lead.

The Longhorns would never trail again in the set, finishing off the set with a 25-17 lead.

Eckerman played a critical role in helping her and fellow senior outside hitter Khat Bell’s Texas career alive, drilling 16 kills and posting a .364 hitting percentage. Dalton finished the night with three service aces and 18 assists. On the offensive end, the Longhorns posted a .327 hitting percentage.

On the defensive end, junior outside hitter Amy Neal lead the team with 14 digs while freshman Cat McCoy came up big with 12 digs. The Longhorns outblocked the Rams eight to three and held Colorado State to a .175 hitting percentage.

Texas advances to Saturday’s regional final for the ninth straight season and will face No. 7 seed North Carolina, who beat Oregon 3-1 Friday