Amidst a crowd on its feet for set point, senior utility Sha’Dare McNeal hopped up and slapped the ball across the net, concluding Texas’ 3-0 sweep of West Virginia Saturday afternoon.
McNeal’s final kill of the match was appropriately executed in her last regular-season home game, and she was honored after the game for her career achievements at Texas.
“She’s been a big pat of this program and still is,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said of McNeal. “As a coach, you want to see players develop into confident young women and I’m just pleased with where she stands with her confidence in herself and the lessons she can teach our younger players.”
McNeal’s seven kills and three service aces were not the only high points of the game for the Longhorns. Freshman Molly McCage started the first set on a high note, jumping up to kill the first ball served to Texas. Sophomore Haley Eckerman added five kills, while sophomore Khat Bell tacked on two. Junior Bailey Webster’s block upped the score to 19-9, as the frazzled Mountaineers struggled to respond. The Longhorns finished out the set at 25-14.
Bell’s explosive kill kicked off set two. West Virginia followed closely behind Texas for the beginning of the set, but as the Mountaineers crept closer, Eckerman slapped the ball for a kill, sparking a four-point streak. The set concluded on Eckerman’s kill, closing at 25-17.
Texas’ first seven points in the third set proved insurmountable for the Mountaineers, as they scrambled to respond to the Longhorns’ offense. McNeal and Bell teamed up for a double-block, and Eckerman’s subsequent block made the score 20-12. McNeal’s final kill clinched the match at 25-16.
“Coming into the game, I told myself not to be too emotional,” McNeal said. “But it was a lot of fun getting to play in front of our crowd and our fans.”
Elliott said he was pleased with the team’s performance in its final regular-season match at Gregory.
“Our team was prepared and I think our team knew they were going to have a good chance to win this match, so keeping them focused was important,” he said.
Likewise, he said, the next few games will prove a challenge, even for the No. 3 Longhorns.
“At this point there are no more easy matches,” Elliott said. “We will be in position to be challenged and we want to be in that environment and we need to keep getting experience.“