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Top Seed Texas Claims Hard-Fought Battle vs. UK

Recap and Quotes


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Led by sophomore outside hitter Bailey Webster’s match-high 17 kills, the top seed University of Texas Longhorns defeated a tough Kentucky bunch 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 27-25, 25-23) in the NCAA Lexington Regional in front of 4,022 fans on Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.
The win advances the Longhorns to the regional finals against No. 9 seed UCLA on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum. UCLA advanced in the championships after taking down four-time defending National Champion Penn State 3-0 earlier Friday.
With the win, Texas moves to 25-4 on the season, while Kentucky ends its 2011 campaign at 28-6. Texas leads the all-time series against Kentucky 13-3, including a 4-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament. This was the first meeting between the two schools since 1995.
Texas was led in the match by Webster, who earned a career-high tying 17 kills in the match en route to a hitting percentage of .325. Two other Longhorns earned 15 kills or more in the match with freshman Haley Eckerman posting 16 kills and senior Rachael Adams earning 15 kills. Sophomore setter Hannah Allison posted an impressive 44 assists in the contest, while sophomore defensive specialist Sarah Palmer gathered 16 digs.
Kentucky junior Ashley Frazier led the UK attack with a team-high 16 kills, while three other Wildcats had double-figure kill nights. Freshman outside hitter Lauren O’Conner had 13 kills, while seniors Becky Pavan and Ann Armes ended their UK careers with 12 kills and 13 kills, respectively. Junior setter Christian Hartmann had a match-high 55 assists, while junior defensive specialist Stephanie Klefot added a match-high 21 digs. Klefot now has 23 career matches where she has earned 20 or more digs.
The Wildcats won the blocking battle, posting nine blocks in the match.
Texas Head Coach Jerritt Elliott
Opening statement from Coach Elliott…
“All of you saw this match. It was a heavyweight fight. Craig Skinner has done an amazing job here. We’ve been friends for a long time and he was one of the great assistants at Nebraska when they made their great runs and I knew he would build this program to be a contender and tonight showed how well disciplined they were and their fight. This match could have gone either way. We made some plays at the end. I was very pleased with how we fought tonight and defensively how we battled. This was an amazing match. This was the best team that we faced all year. I thought they were the most consistent team. They never let us off the hook and there weren’t a lot of runs. We feel good about moving on. We know that we’re going to have a big challenge tomorrow with UCLA, a very similar type team, but I couldn’t be more proud of my players with the heart that they showed, the desire and the team chemistry that they were able to display tonight with the win.”
#10 Haley Eckerman, Freshman, Outside Hitter
On her thoughts of the match…
“I think that both teams played great. There were so many plays where the ball could have been down, but Kentucky was digging it up and we were fighting after balls. It was just a great, fun game to play in. I think we did a really good job of sticking together in this crazy environment.
On the end of the third set…
“I think we just knew that we had to stick together and calm down and work through it.”
#23 Bailey Webster, Sophomore, Outside Hitter
On her thoughts of the match…
“I think that it was a great game and Kentucky played great. It was one of those games that you love to play in where you grovel for each and every point. I’m just so proud of my teammates that groveled through every point they could and fought with all they could. They put it all out on the floor.”
On the end of the third set…
“I think it was really important to stay disciplined. There were a couple points that we let get away from us and when it gets that close and things are on the line, you realize that there is no room for error. So we stayed disciplined and pulled it out.”
On Kentucky’s ability to dig balls…
“They were a great team that we haven’t matched up against like that before. We all knew that we had to keep swinging and it would work out.”
On playing in a hostile environment…
“We expected it to be hostile. We knew that they were going to have a good crowd and that they would be pumped up for the game, as well as the audience. In a situation like that you have to stay calm and you have to do what you’ve been doing the whole entire time to get to the point that you are at. So we tried to do what we’ve been doing all season and it worked out for us.”
Kentucky Head Coach Craig Skinner
Opening statement…
“First of all, I want to thank my team and staff, it’s a hell of a group. I think the hardest part is being in the locker room after your last loss, especially when you have a group like this that has huge hearts and huge ability. None of us wanted the season to end. Another thing, I can’t thank this crowd enough for what they did for volleyball, our team and program. Sports are all about recruiting and hopefully we recruited some new fans. Unbelievable atmosphere. I expected a lot of things in this match. A lot could have gone different ways. I didn’t expect it to be as evenly matched as far as statistics. I thought we could have done a lot of things defensively, blocking and attacking. The one thing I did not expect tonight was Texas to play the floor defense they did tonight, we hit some rockets and they came up with them and that was probably the difference in the match. I felt like if we out dug them and had more aces than them then we’d win the match and they had one more ace and seven more digs. What a volleyball match, can’t say enough and I’m just really proud of these players and this staff and our fans were incredible this year.”
On where this team ranks compared to other UK teams…
“That’s a hard question because there are just so many good people that have been in this program. I can say that none of them have topped this group, every day was an absolute joy to be in the gym, be around them, coach them, train them, challenge them, and they took everything and wanted more. These kids are so selfless it’s unbelievable. They wanted more for other people to do well than themselves. In today’s world, it’s such a ‘me’ world (and) to have that kind of group and culture within a program it is pretty special. I’ll never forget this group.”
On this team hanging in after losing the third set…
“There’s no way this team was going to give up, absolutely no way. They are so tough and resilient. As an athlete, you need to be in the moment and there is no team that has done that better than this group. They were so focused and intent on winning this particular point that I wasn’t worried how we’d respond after the third set. We had to make more plays than Texas and we just fell a little short.”
On what tonight meant for where the program is…
“We talk about building a championship program and there are steps and we took a small step. It’s disappointing not winning. I don’t think there is a player in the locker room that didn’t think we could win that match. We had to make plays. We took a step forward and I don’t think our players or recruits can look at anyone and say we don’t have an opportunity to win. People that saw that match, I think that’s about as level of volleyball as you can play. If you aren’t excited to play in front of a crowd like that and with a group that puts their heart and soul into the game then I’d be stunned. We’re on the right path and we have to continue to take steps forward and this team is so motivated that I’m not worried that won’t happen.”
#11 Stephanie Klefot, Junior, Libero
On her thoughts on the match...
“You couldn't ask more out of a season, this is my favorite year. This team is really special and I don't think people get that. To see it end is just, it's disappointing. But we are going out with our heads up.”
On how hard it was to get a kill against Texas...
“You have to give a lot of credit to our hitters because they kept swinging and they didn't stop. Any team could have folded at that point where they keep digging the ball. The hitters kept after it and we wouldn't have done so well without them in this game.”
On the state of Kentucky volleyball after that game...
“We just gained a lot of respect from that game. Not only Kentucky volleyball, but the SEC is hopefully going to be looked at more after this tournament. Especially us, no one  expected us to even give Texas a run for their money and we did.”
#32, Christine Hartmann, Junior, Setter
On her thoughts on the match...
“I guess I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to be here with and the way we played together. I will be a fifth-year senior next year, and if next year tops this year it's going to be an awesome season. I don't know how much more of an awesome season we can have. I’m glad of the way we went out, (because we) gave Texas a run for their money and gained a lot of respect.”
On how hard it was to get a kill against Texas...
“That's something we see in practice every day. We weren't expecting it, but it is something that we could hang with. It wasn't going to stop us, it wasn't going to take us down by 10 points in the game, it was never going to get that bad. Our players gave us the same thing in practice every day, so what we saw in this game is what we see in practice.”
On the environment created by the crowd...
“It's definitely the biggest crowd we have played in front of. Even when we were at Nebraska last year the crowd felt that big to us. I also think the biggest part of it was we lost the fourth game and they were still cheering for us because they knew we had a great season. We love the support from the fans this year, we've had more interaction with our fans this year than we have in the past and you can tell that they are die-hard fans of UK volleyball now.”
#4 Ashley Frazier, Junior, Outside Hitter
On her thoughts on the match...
“Coming out of the game, I think we earned a lot of respect from people. I don't think that people expected too much of us going into the game. The fact that we were there with them point for point for the entire game speaks how good both teams are. I'm just so proud of our team for the way that we played. If we had to go out I guess this is the way I would want it to be, because we played our hearts out.”



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