Katherine Harms

ShaÂ’Dare McNeal started at libero for the Longhorns. McNeal usually plays utility and had three kills during the loss.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Texas comes back in third set to challenge Cougars

Thursday night definitely wasn’t the ideal match for the Longhorns, but some valuable lessons surely came out of each set. After going down 0-2 in the first two sets, the Longhorns fought back to win the third set but saw their comeback bid fall just short in the fourth set.

Texas didn’t quite look like it was ready to play in the first two sets, but the team regained its composure in the third set. A big part of their close comeback was a huge block by Texas middle blockers Khat Bell and Nicole Dalton in the third set, resulting in a Texas point. The block gave Texas a 19-18 lead which helped carry the Longhorns to victory in the set. While most of Texas’ points came from good plays, Minnesota helped them out after some miscommunication and poor serves, giving Texas some easy points.

A key part of the Longhorns’ comeback attempt was confidence. After the break following the second set, the Longhorns came out of the gate with energy and a mission. Blocks would be key for the Longhorns to keep pace with Minnesota, which they definitely accomplished.

Blocking makes the difference in 3-1 loss

Coming up with blocks in pivotal volleys was a vital part of this match between the Gophers and the Longhorns. Minnesota dominated this aspect of the game for the first two sets coming out with 7.5 blocks while Texas only tallied 4. The Gophers recorded a total of 13 assisted blocks but only five single blocks. Texas came on strong in the third set tallying five team blocks while their opponent only tallied another two. The six assisted blocks in the third set were a big part of Texas’ game.

For both teams, digs proved to be vital elements of their respective games. The Golden Gophers logged 67 during the four sets, which saved multiple points for them. While Texas only tallied 46 digs, they were just as important. On multiple occasions, Texas diggers saved losing a set for the Longhorns, keeping their hopes alive. Senior Sha’Dare McNeal, who started at libero, recorded 11 digs for her Texas team while freshman Nicole Dalton, finishing with 10 digs, also gave her team an advantage with her play. Head coach Jerritt Elliott knew his team’s strengths, but they just couldn’t capitalize.

Harms stumps the Longhorns with 24 kills

Both teams had their standout players for the night. For Minnesota, Senior Katherine Harms out of Albertville, Minn., led her team with 24 kills and 13 digs. While hitting .319 with two assists, she helped her team get the win. Head coach Elliott definitely knew she would be troubling going into the match.

“She is good and we knew that. I thought we did a better job in sets three and four, but then she got hot again in set four. She hurt us early and we knew we had to key in on her and be all over her,” Elliot said.

The Longhorns were led by junior opposite/outside hitter Bailey Webster. She tied her career best 17 kills and hit .368. Dalton also was a key player with a season high 21 assists, 10 digs, and one kill. The freshman definitely showed potential in loss.

Bailey Webster tied her career-best 17 kills during the loss to the Golden Gophers. She had six kills during the third set and helped force a fourth set.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Despite a loud Longhorn crowd and a 33-game home-win streak, Texas lost to No. 14 Minnesota in four sets Thursday night.

Junior outside/opposite hitter Bailey Webster led the Longhorns, tying her career best with 17 kills and hitting .368 for the match. Freshman Nicole Dalton had a season-high 21 assists as well as 10 digs and one kill. Minnesota’s Katherine Harms had 24 kills with 13 digs, allowing Minnesota to snap the Longhorns’ record home-win streak.

Senior Sha’Dare McNeal opened the first match as the libero for the Longhorns. Harms added three kills later to make it a 24-18 advantage for the Golden Gophers. Webster’s kill sparked four straight points for Texas, but Harms closed out the set with her ninth kill as Minnesota took the first set, 25-22.

The Longhorns were held to less than 20 points for the first time this season in the second set. Minnesota’s 11-3 run allowed them to take the set, 25-13.

After shifting the starting lineup to include junior Sarah Palmer at libero and McNeal at utility, the Longhorns managed a close third set, powered by Webster’s six kills. Texas won the set 29-27 and forced a fourth set.

As set four drew to a close, McNeal’s massive kills tied the score at 21, placing Texas in set point position at 24-22. Texas had another set point due to a Minnesota attack error, but Minnesota’s Tori Dixon evened the score. Khat Bell and Dixon both posted kills to bring the score to 26-26, but it was Harms who launched another kill, handing the lead back to Minnesota. Despite one final kill by Bell, a Texas hitting error gave match point to Minnesota as Harms polished off the win with one last kill.

“Obviously, we are disappointed in the loss,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We tried a new lineup and thought we were going to do some good things with it, but we couldn’t get any continuity early on. Minnesota did a good job putting pressure on us. They were efficient, and we were very deficient in our defense and blocking.”

Sophomore Haley Eckerman said she thought the mentality of the team was not up to par to face an opponent like Minnesota.

“Minnesota is a good team, and I think we just weren’t fully prepared,” she said. “We were prepared, but not mentally there at the beginning of the set.”

The Longhorns will face Minnesota again tonight in Gregory Gym at 6:30 p.m.

Eckerman looks on as her teammate sets in the Longhorn's 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Gophers Friday night. The Longhorns were out for revenge after dropping Thursday night's contest which snapped a 33-game home winning streak.

Photo Credit: Nathan Goldsmith | Daily Texan Staff

Sophomore All-American Haley Eckerman had a season-high 19 kills against Minnesota Friday night, also recording a service ace. The outside hitter from Waterloo, Iowa, was the leading scorer in the victory, contributing 22.5 points for the Longhorns — another season high. She bested her previous kill count of 16 against Florida at the Nike Big Four Volleyball Classic last weekend.

Eckerman hit .289 Friday evening with an assist, three blocks and two digs.

Eckerman was joined at the top by junior outside hitter Bailey Webster who also recorded double-digit kills against the Gophers with 14.

No harm done to Horns

Senior outside hitter Katherine Harms was once again the top performer for Minnesota. She registered 12 kills and hit .357 for the Gophers in game two Friday night. Low production for the senior Friday contributed to the Gophers’ loss.

Harms logged 24 kills Thursday, twice as much of her production in game two Friday.

The difference for the Gophers between first game and the second one was a vast difference in hitting percentage. During Thursday’s win, the Gophers hit .327 with 71 kills compared to the Texas average of .170 and 47 kills.

The Longhorns rebounded Friday and hit .216 compared to the Gophers’ .149.

Overall, Minnesota logged just seven team blocks although they edged Texas in kills with 51 compared to the Longhorns’ 49.

“She is good and we knew that,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliot said of Harms. “I thought we were a little bit calmer, our formations were better, we gave us some more opportunities.”

Bell absent during second game against the Gophers

Sophomore middle blocker Khat Bell, who played Thursday night in the loss to Minnesota, was absent from play Friday night for game two. Bell, who didn’t dress out, stood and cheered her teammates from the bench in gray warm ups.

Last season, Bell suffered a season-ending knee injury against Kansas in early November. Before her injury, she was a powerful force for the Longhorns registering 184 kills and nine assists with a .243 hitting percentage.

So far this season, Bell has played in seven games and started five. She has 42 kills on the season and a .283 hitting average.

In game one against the Gophers, Bell hit .292 with nine kills and contributed 11.5 points for Texas.