Texas' Webster shines on court
Bailey Webster plays instrumental role in championship wins
With the playing of “First Call” by the Church Hill Downs official bugler Steve Buttleman right before the Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship match on Saturday, Texas junior outside hitter Bailey Webster exploded out of the gates and was off to the races.
Webster’s phenomenal play sparked the Longhorns to a 3-0 sweep of Oregon and their first NCAA title since 1988. She knocked down 14 kills, while hitting .500 against the Ducks, concluding a spectacular tournament in which she compiled 96 kills and a .458 hitting percentage over the course of six matches in the NCAA postseason.
Webster was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, was in a completely different zone during the match and it showed from the very first moment. Webster knocked down the first kill of the match, and dominated the entire way.
In the first set, Webster posted five kills and a .714 hitting percentage en route the Longhorns’ convincing 25-11 win while matched up against AVCA National Player of the Year Alaina Bergsma. And, she played an integral part in the Longhorns shutting down Bergsma, holding her without a kill in the first set.
“The entire tournament she was phenomenal,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “She was hitting .519 [in the postseason] coming into the Michigan match. Michigan played unbelievable defense [in the semifinals]. Our set location wasn't quite as good as it was tonight. [Setter] Hannah [Allison] did a really nice job problem solving that … and Bailey worked the court.”
In the pivotal second set, Webster notched eight kills as the Longhorns battled from behind for the eventual 26-24 victory.
“We knew she was going to be -- obviously we knew she was going to be difficult to defend,” Oregon head coach Jim Moore said. “She played great … she's a physical specimen.”
It was the second time Webster had played in the championship match. She was a freshman when the Longhorns lost in five sets to Penn State in 2009.
Webster missed the 2010 season with a knee injury when the Longhorns returned the NCAA semifinals and were ousted by the Nittany Lions again. Last year, Texas fell in the regional final to eventual NCAA champion UCLA. While it had been a few years since Webster was in a position to help Texas take the trophy back to Austin, nerves were not going to get in the way of this opportunity.
“During the match I was really calm,” Webster said. “’This is just a regular game. Yeah, let's play. We're having a good time.’ I just was calming myself down, because your anxiety can just mess you up because it's the national championship match.”
Clutching a piece of the championship net, and a section of the court at the postgame press conference, Webster was asked to reflect on her play in the match.
“I can't remember anything, because just at this point it's just surreal,” Webster said. “So I can't remember what happened in the game.”
What Webster did remember is the Longhorns’ total team effort as they claimed the ultimate prize in collegiate volleyball.
“I think honestly all I remember and all I know about this match is that I just felt like we did the whole thing together,” Webster said. “I feel like one game someone was on, the next game someone was on.”