AUSTIN, Texas --- The sixth-ranked Texas Volleyball squad rallied to a 3-2 (25-27, 25-17, 13-25, 25-21, 15-10) win over No. 1 Penn State Saturday afternoon in front of a record 4,373 fans at Gregory Gym in the opening match of the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic.
The Longhorns had 52 kills on a .271 hitting percentage and were led by junior All-American Haley Eckerman with 15 kills. Sophomore Amy Neal added a career-high 10 kills in the win, Texas' first home victory over a No. 1 opponent since topping Nebraska in three sets on Oct. 24, 1997. Texas had 13 blocks, including a match-high six from sophomore middle blocker Molly McCage.
The announced attendance marks the highest in Gregory Gym's current configuration, topping the previous record of 4,324 vs. Nebraska on Nov. 19, 2008. It is the fifth sellout since the 2007 season.
In a back-and-forth opening set that saw 14 ties and eight lead changes, neither team held more than a two-point advantage. Tied at 25-25, Penn State used consecutive kills from Deja McClendon and Micha Hancock to earn a 27-25 set victory. The Nittany Lions recorded a .364 hitting percentage in the opening frame and were paced by six kills by McClendon.
The Longhorns started off strong with an 11-4 lead in the second set and never looked back. Trailing 23-14, the Nittany Lions had a 3-1 run before a service error by McClendon gave Texas the 25-17 win. The Longhorns logged a .286 hitting percentage in the set, paced by four kills apiece by Neal and Eckerman.
After a 9-3 start by the Nittany Lions to open the third set, the Longhorns closed the gap to 14-10. Penn State answered with an 11-3 run to win the third set 25-13. The Nittany Lions recorded a .577 hitting percentage and were led by McClendon's six kills and six digs.
The fourth set featured another back-and-forth start before the Longhorns used a 6-1 run to build a 12-7 cushion. Penn State then went on a 7-2 streak to tie it up at 14. Texas counter attacked with a 5-1 run capped by an Eckerman kill to win the set 25-21. Sarah Palmer and Neal each had six digs in the set, while Eckerman posted 4 kills.
After a close battle in the beginning of the fifth set, Texas finished with a 6-2 run to win the set 15-10. The Longhorns posted a .400 hitting percentage in the set, led by Pilar Victoria and Eckerman with two kills apiece.
McClendon led the Nittany Lions with 20 kills and 17 digs.
Texas continues action at the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic against No. 2 Stanford on Sunday, Sept. 8. The match is set to start at 3 p.m.