What more does Haley Eckerman have left to accomplish?
She started out as the No. 5 recruit, according to Prep Volleyball, out of Waterloo, Iowa. In the last three years she became an All-American, a national champion and the second Longhorn in program history to be named National Freshman of the Year.
“Even if I don’t get an award at the end of the year, it’s how have I improved and made myself and my team better,” Eckerman said. “It’s not about the award.”
That’s the kind of attitude that excites head coach Jerritt Elliott, and eases his worry about a championship hangover.
“Our girls tried hard and competed [with their] all,” Elliott said after the team’s season-opening loss to Hawaii last week. “We are going to take some losses. But as long as we put it all out there, I can’t be mad.”
With her past accolades, great expectations come for Eckerman.
Eckerman earned the Big 12 Player of the Year award last season, but she’s not worried about repeating her sensational year, which included 504 kills and a .298 hitting percentage.
“I don’t think there is much pressure,” Eckerman said. “It’s just an award they give out at the beginning of the year. To us, ranking means nothing. It is about playing … and finding
Instead of focusing on individual recognition, she is excited about the team.
“Winning a national championship helped set the standard for us,” Eckerman said. “We have always come in with a big meeting to set our standards. This is a new team and it is a new year, so we will have to figure out what it will take to reach those standards again.”
Eckerman knows this group isn’t the same as the one that beat Oregon in the national championship game last year, despite losing only Sha’Dare McNeal from the 2012 team.
“It’s a whole different team, with freshmen and people playing at different positions,” Eckerman said. “It’s a whole different dynamic and it’s fun playing with it.”
So when Eckerman takes the court Saturday in the season opener against No. 1 Penn State, she won’t think about being last year’s National Co-Player of the Year or the recent Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. She will instead focus on helping the team be the best it can be.
“We get to write our own journey,” Eckerman said. “As [Elliott] said last year, we won that championship as a team. We will have to do it again.”