Dare McNeal

 

Junior outside hitter Bailey Webster had 17 kills as the Longhorns battled the Cyclones for a win in Gregory Gym.  

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Texas was kept on its toes against Iowa State Wednesday night, claiming a burnt orange-tainted victory despite two initial strong sets for the Cyclones.

The Longhorns crawled out of an early rut to win a 10th straight match this season, marking the first time the team has won after a two-set deficit since its 2009 season opener.

“Our defense was really struggling early on,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Getting [Haley] Eckerman back into the match and the passers doing a great job led up to the better efficiency. We got a lot calmer and stayed consistent.”

Eckerman, an outside hitter, had six kills and a block in the first set, while junior setter Hannah Allison pitched in 12 assists. An early 10-4 lead handed Iowa State an initial advantage, but senior utility Sha’Dare McNeal added several kills, allowing Texas to gain its first lead in the set, 20-19. A UT hitting error allowed Iowa State to claim the first set. 

An early Texas lead in the second set was overpowered by five consecutive points by the Cyclones. Despite Allison’s seven assists, the Cyclones launched another 8-1 run to gain a 2-0 lead in the match.

Strong performances by McNeal shifted the momentum of the match in the third set, as McNeal contributed three kills, two blocks and two assists. Allison tacked on 13 assists and two aces, bringing the score up in Texas’ favor. The Longhorns closed the set at 25-17, segueing into a fourth set.

Strong Texas performances punctuated the fourth set, as junior outside hitter Bailey Webster added four kills and three blocks, while McNeal pitched in three kills and two blocks. Allison continued her roll of assists, adding 14. A back row kill by Eckerman allowed Texas to gain a significant lead and force a fifth set.

Webster and Iowa State’s Victoria Hurtt battled in the fifth set, but a block by McNeal moved the set along in Texas’s favor. Freshman Molly McCage jumped the score to 9-6, and a Webster kill sparked a 5-1 run to conclude the set.

“Anytime you go undefeated in the Big 12 is huge,” Elliott said. “There are still a lot of things we can do and points we can touch on to get more proficient in terms of our touches but we have time before the next match.” 

That next match will take place in one week, as the Longhorns take on the Baylor Bears next Wednesday in Gregory Gym.

Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2012 as: Longhorns claim tenth straight win against ISU

Junior ShaÂ’Dare McNeal is back for Texas, after fighting an injury all season long. McNeal returned to the lineup two weeks ago against Oklahoma, and is now almost completely healthy. With her back in the rotation the Longhorns finally have their preferred lineup on the court every match, as McNeal provides a ton of flexibility at the utility position.

Photo Credit: Corey Leamon | Daily Texan Staff

 The Longhorns have 14 players on their roster and because of an influx of youth and a key injury, all 14 players have seen see court time. With their lineup in constant transition, it’s hard for the team to find any consistency.

Much of the disturbance in the rotation has been caused by an injury to Sha’Dare McNeal. McNeal is the team’s utility player, meaning she can play any position on the court at any time. This makes her the Longhorns’ most flexible player and perhaps the most valuable to the team’s system.

“Sha’Dare’s return is going to make a big difference for us for many different reasons — it will solidify our passing a little bit more and allow us to have more balance, while allowing us to do some different things offensively,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott in mid-September. “But right now we are confident, the team is playing well. Again, we don’t miss a big beat with Sha’Dare out. But again, she’s definitely a big piece.”

But now McNeal is back, returning to action two weeks ago in a loss to Oklahoma. But the best news for the team is that she is presently almost 100 percent healthy and ready to solidify the rotation.

“It’s exciting, Sha’Dare is almost all the way healthy right now, so now we’re starting to look at her as part of our lineup,” Elliott said. “Sha’Dare can do a lot of different things — she can play on the right for us and gives us some options.”

The change will alter the lineup significantly, allowing Texas to be as flexible as possible with the rotations they have on the court for the offensive and defensive situations.

McNeal’s return will shorten the playing time of a few of her teammates though; most notably Bailey Webster, who has been playing on the right side in McNeal’s usual station. Webster has been playing quite proficiently on that side, after retuning this year from an injury that sidelined her all of last season. It will be tough to get her off the court, and Elliott will have to find her playing time elsewhere.

“Obviously Bailey [Webster] is playing very well over there, so we’ll have to figure out exactly what to do with her, but having Sha’Dare back gives us some balance, and gives us an ability to do different things,” Elliott said. “While ultimately giving us the ability to have our best pin volleyball player out there for all six rotations.”

McNeal’s return isn’t the only change to the Longhorns lineup recently, because in the game against Texas A&M last Wednesday, outside hitter Khat Bell was moved to middle blocker. The change gives the team a stronger presence at the net defensively and reduces the number of errors they will have on that side of the ball.

“We have moved Khat Bell to the middle,” Elliott said. “We’re not done investing her as an outside hitter because I feel that’s where she will ultimately be. But right now we were giving up too many points on the defense side and on out-of-system errors. Ultimately, we were trying to get a little more balance as well. With the move we were able to get more balance in a lot of different areas that night.”

The Longhorns hope that all of these lineup changes will come together beautifully as they take on Texas Tech in Gregory at 7 p.m. tonight.

Printed on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 as: McNeal's back, rotation finally set