The Longhorns finished their first three games of the season strong with two wins and one loss at the Burnt Orange Classic this past weekend.
Head coach Jerritt Elliott was eager to see how Texas’ freshmen would fit in with the rest of the squad. Safe to say, newcomers Khat Bell and Haley Eckerman were up for the task, helping the No. 4 Longhorns to two wins and one loss in the first three games of the season.
Friday night’s game against Pepperdine resulted in a 3-1 victory by the Longhorns, with Bell notching a team-high 16 kills while Eckerman had 12.
The first set was very close with multiple lead changes throughout, but the Longhorns pulled out the 26-24 win when a kill by Bell finished the set. The second set was characterized by strong, aggressive play by the Waves, and they won the set 25-21. After a break, the third set was just what the Longhorns needed. The team dominated and the Waves could not catch up, with the final score ending up at 25-16. The fourth and final set was closer, but Rachael Adams’ kill ended the set 25-22. Texas finished with 20 blocks in the game.
“We have a young team, and we knew that there were going to be some hiccups in terms of how they adjust to things,” Elliott said. “There was just a lot of anxiety on the floor early on, and we weren’t playing to our level, but also you get so used to a certain style in your gym that it is hard to make those adjustments.
This early in the season, there are some changes that still need to be made, and the final lineup is still unclear.”
Sophomore Hannah Allison thinks that once the Longhorns settle in, things will get even better.
“The first game is never necessarily smooth, but I think we had things exposed that we will be able to fix, and that’s encouraging,” she said. “But we definitely have some areas to improve on.”
Adams, a senior, continued to play well on Saturday in Texas’ 3-1 victory against Ole Miss. Texas ended the weekend with a 3-2 loss to the Israel National Team. Bell turned in 14 kills and sophomore Bailey Webster had eight.
Sophomore Haley Cameron, who started in the match, was also impressive, tallying 19 kills and hitting .405.
“I think we’re all doing great and settling into it because these are our first games together,” said Cameron. “We’re running our offense and getting a lot of one-on-one opportunities, and our setters are great for finding us.”
Although the loss was disappointing, Elliott was happy with how the team played.
“We have a lot of new players, and we got to see pretty much everybody play,” he said. “I thought we’ve gotten better in every match.”
Adams said the team still has some work to do, including for the middles to move the ball around better.
“We have to hold our composure, even when the game is on the line,” Adams said. “We have to believe in ourselves. We have to fight. We have to learn how to fight.”