No. 6 Texas volleyball knocked off No. 1 Penn State in five sets Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd in Gregory Gym.
An estimated 4,373 fans packed the stands for the Longhorns’ home opener, providing energy throughout the match.
“I want to thank the fans and the alumni for coming out,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We’ve been striving to get sold-out crowds and that was a big part in us being able to pull this match out.”
And when asked the biggest difference between the loss last year against the Nittany Lions and this year’s victory Elliott had a simple response: “We’re at home.”
Penn State took the first game in a back-and-forth battle, holding on for a 27-25 victory, but the Longhorns came back firing to tie the match with a 25-17 game-two victory. The pendulum nature of the game continued with the Nittany Lions winning game three 25-13, and the Longhorns staving off defeat with a 25-21 emotional game-four win.
In the fifth game, the Longhorns, sparked by the deafening crowd, outplayed Penn State down the stretch, pulling away for a 15-10 victory.
“We got in a good rhythm and controlled the match in every game but game three,” Elliott said. “I also liked our mentality throughout the match.”
Earlier in the week, Elliott talked about finding a lineup that worked; it appeared he found it against Penn State. Elliott stuck with the same rotation for all five games.
“We got a unique situation with two of the best outsides in the country, and we need ball control around them,” Elliott said. “We developed a system to give us more ball control, and today I thought our defense was exceptional.”
Amy Neal led the Longhorns’ defensive effort with 20 digs, fitting in perfectly with the system Elliott wants to employ. Freshman Chloe Collins added 16 digs.
On the other side of the ball, Eckerman led the offense with 15 kills.
But Texas knows this early-season victory doesn’t mean too much for later in the year.
“I think later in the season they will be way better than what they are now,” Neal said. “But so will we.”
So while the win is meaningful, Eckerman and the Longhorns won’t celebrate long as they have No. 2 Stanford tomorrow and the rest of the season ahead of them.
“I think the biggest thing is that we have to keep moving forward,” Eckerman said, “Going into practice every day and correcting those little things. One point at a time is our biggest focus.”