As the Longhorns prepare to host the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament this week and next, another bit of good news has come their way: Haley Eckerman, the team's star sophomore outside hitter, has been named Big 12 Player of the Year, reports TexasSports.com.
This is the fourth straight year and sixth time overall that a Texas student-athlete has been named Big 12 Player of the Year: Destinee Hooker (2009), Juliann Faucette (2010) and Bailey Webster (2011) are past winners, as are Mira Topic (2004) and Demetria Sance (1997). The conference awards are chosen by the league's head coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own players.
Eckerman finished 2012 leading the league in points (5.24) and kills (4.60) in Big 12-only contests. The 2011 AVCA Freshman of the Year, she becomes the third sophomore to earn the Big 12 Player of the Year distinction, and the sixth player in league history to earn both the Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year honors in their careers. The native of Waterloo, Iowa, collected five Big 12 Player of the Week honors this season. In overall matches, she leads the Big 12 in kills (4.59), service aces (0.44) and points (5.27). Nationally, she ranks ninth in the country in points and 10th in kills. She posted double-digit kills in all but one match this season and has seven double-doubles.
Eckerman, along with teammates Khat Bell, Sha'Dare McNeal and Bailey Webster, all received All-Big 12 First Team honors while Molly McCage earned All-Freshman Team honors. Bell, Eckerman and Webster earned their second straight conference honor while McNeal earned her first-ever Big 12 honor.
The team, which won the Big 12 championship earlier this month, will open its NCAA tournament as the No. 3 seed against Colgate on Nov. 29.
Images courtesy of UT Athletics.