LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 15, 2012) – Third-seed Texas (29-4) earned its second NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship on Saturday after defeating fifth-seed Oregon (30-5) 25-11, 26-24, 25-19 in Louisville, Ky.
Texas, which won its last NCAA title in 1988, was playing in its fourth NCAA title match. The Longhorns had reached the national semifinals eight times and four times in the last five years. Texas nearly won its second NCAA title in 2009 after leading Penn State 2-0 before falling in a heartbreaking five-set match. After losing its regular season finale, the Longhorns won all six of its NCAA postseason matches. The Ducks, who had never advanced past the regional semifinals, had their greatest season ever end one match shy of the title.
The match promised offensive fireworks as Texas led the nation in team hitting efficiency (.322 as of Dec. 14), while Oregon held a national-best 15.97 kills per set. However, the positive offense was one-sided in the match as Texas hit .438 for the match with 43 kills on 89 attacks and just four errors. In total, Texas had just eight total errors in the match, including three service errors and one reception error.
Bailey Webster, the most outstanding player of the NCAA Tournament, paced the Longhorns with 14 kills on 26 attack as part of a .500 hitting efficiency to go with four block assists. Haley Eckerman totaled 12 kills, an ace and block assists. Sha’Dare McNeal totaled eight kills on 17 errorless attacks and four block assists. Molly McCage tallied a match-high eight block assists to go with four kills on five errorless attacks. Hannah Allison set the Longhorns to a .438 team hitting efficiency with 35 assists to go with five total blocks. Kat Bell contributed four kills and six total blocks. Sarah Palmer pocketed a team-high 11 digs.
Liz Brenner and Katherine Fischer each scored 13 kills for the Ducks in the loss, while AVCA Division I National Player of the Year Alaina Bergsma added nine kills, one ace and a block assist. Lauren Plum was credited with 41 assists as the Ducks were limited to a .202 hitting efficiency. Plum added two kills. Canace Finley tacked on five kills and Ariana Williams chipped in four kills. Haley Jacob tallied a team-high 10 digs.
Texas’ block was dominating in the match with 15 team blocks to Oregon’s one. The Ducks held a 37-33 advantage in digs. Texas held a slim 2-1 margin in aces and took advantage of seven Oregon service errors.
The Longhorns controlled the opening set with Duck errors as the prime reason. Texas opened the first set with a 5-1 lead that included two block assists from McCage and Webster. The Longhorns expanded the lead to 9-3 with after Oregon committed its fifth attack error of the set prompting a Duck timeout. Texas continued its pressure in establishing a 15-5 margin as the Ducks’ attack errors piled up to nine at media timeout. McCage three consecutive block assists to push the Longhorn margin to 20-7. Bergsma served an ace to cut the gap to 22-10, but the early errors were too much to overcome as Texas finished the set with a 25-11 victory on an Eckerman kill. Webster finished the set with five kills on seven errorless attacks as the Longhorns hit .400. McCage provided five block assists as Texas totaled seven team blocks. Oregon committed 12 attack errors on 36 swings for a negative .083 attack efficiency, along with two service errors for 14 errors leading to direct Texas points.
The second set remained closed until Texas called a timeout down 12-10 after yielding three unanswered points to the Ducks. Until that point, neither team held more than a one-point advantage with two lead changes. Oregon stretched the lead to 14-11 with a Brenner kill. Finley and Bergsma downed consecutive kills to push the gap to 17-13 at Texas’ second timeout. Texas sliced the gap to 17-16 following a McNeal overpass kill and block assist. The Longhorns erased the once four-point deficit after a Webster kill leading into an Oregon timeout. The Ducks responded with three unanswered points to take a 20-17 advantage with kills from Bergsma and Williams and a combo block from the pair. Texas rallied to knot the score at 23-all as Eckerman scored three kills as part of a 6-3 run. Eckerman then scored an ace to reverse the lead to the Longhorns and yield the first set point at 24-23. Webster scored the final two points of the second set on kills producing a 26-24 lead and two-set Longhorn advantage. While Oregon hit .462 for the second set, Texas hit even better at .515. Webster finished the set with eight kills on 11 attacks.
Texas broke a 4-all tie in the third set with a 4-0 run that included an Eckerman kill around three Oregon errors. Oregon closed to within two at 10-8 on a Bergsma kill. Another 4-0 Longhorn run, including a Brooks kill and a McNeal kill gave Texas a 14-10 advantage. After Oregon cut the gap to 17-15, Texas used two Duck errors to rebuild a three-point cushion at 19-16 and increased the margin to 22-17 on kills from McNeal and Eckerman. McNeal gave the Longhorns match point with a kill, then Bell and Allison combined for the winning point at 25-19.