Sophomore middle blocker Khat Bell came to Texas ranked No. 2 in the nation along with No. 5 Haley Eckerman and No. 13 Madelyn Hutson, to what was arguably “the best freshman class we’ve ever had here,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said.
But part of the way through the Longhorns’ 2011 campaign, Bell went down. During an early November contest against Kansas in Lawrence, Bell suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Thankfully, a deep bench filled with talent prevented the Longhorns from experiencing a skid after the loss of such a dynamic player.
“She means a lot to this program, and we know she will continue to be an important part,” Elliott said.
As a freshman, Bell was electric, a force to be reckoned with. She averaged 2.67 kills per set and played in every match for Texas before her injury. Bell logged 184 kills in 30 matches while hitting .243.
Prior to the 2011 season, Bell was named preseason Big 12 Freshman Player of the Year while Eckerman went on to earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors after the season. In addition, Bell earned Big 12 Rookie of the Week Honors three times in 2011 and was Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week once.
The Longhorns went on to finish the regular season and part of the postseason without a loss. Texas only halted when eventual national champion UCLA beat it in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Division I Championship.
“It’s very tough, especially for a freshman that was so excited to get into NCAA postseason play,” Elliott said. “Especially with the way that she was playing.”
With a brace on her knee, Bell started the 2012 campaign itching to get back...“I feel great, 100 percent ready to go,” Bell said.
Although she feels no animosity toward Kansas, she has marked the game on her calendar as a mid-season goal on the way to a conference and national title.
“I am really excited. Hopefully I won’t have as much bad luck there as I did last year, but I am looking So far this season, Bell has seen a fair amount of action playing in most of the Longhorns’ games, both at home and on the road. She has 42 kills on the season and is hitting .283, already off to a better season than her freshman year.
“It’s pretty tough this year. I’m taking my time. I’m being patient,” Bell said. “I want to be back to where I was before. I know it is going to take some time, but I am ready to sacrifice that time.”
However, in only the second real regular season home match against Minnesota, Bell was seen cheering her teammates on from the bench dressed in warm-ups rather than on the court in her jersey. The sight caused many fans to pause and wonder if she had aggravated the injury and how long the Longhorns would have to do without her.
“She is fine. Her health is good, but we are still on the recovery process with her,” Elliott said. “We want to make sure we are not overdoing it and putting her in a position where she could hurt herself.”
And if anyone had any further questions or reservations as to her health and impact on the team: “There’s no need to worry about what Khat is going to be able to do for us,”
Printed on Thursday, September 13, 2012 as: Bell bounces back after ACL injury