Ex-North Mesquite star Bell helps UT to NCAA volleyball championship
The University of Texas volleyball team finally climbed back to the top of the mountain on Saturday and North Mesquite graduate Khat Bell helped lead the way.
After several close calls in recent years, the No. 3 Longhorns met No. 5 Oregon for the NCAA Division I national championship at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
This time, UT would not be denied.
Bell, a 6-1 sophomore, had four kills and and six blocks in the match. The last block came along with teammate Hannah Allison on match point to put the finishing touches on a 25-11, 26-24, 25-19 victory.
It was the third national title for Texas, and second NCAA championship. But it was the first since 1988 and it has been a difficult road back.
The Longhorns were making their fourth trip to the Final Four in the last five years, which included a gut-wrenching experience in 2009 when they took the first two games before Penn St. rallied back for a five-set win in the title match.
While Bell had not experienced the disappointment of those setbacks, she had overcome pain of her own to reach the pinnacle on Saturday night.
A two-time district most valuable player who led North Mesquite to four consecutive playoff berths, Bell was the No. 2 recruit in the country according to Prep Volleyball coming out of high school.
She made an immediate impact at Texas, averaging 2.64 kills and nearly a block per game during her freshman season.
But that run was cut short when she suffered a knee injury against Kansas in early November and she was lost for the year.
Bell was recovered and ready for the 2012 season and so were her teammates. UT rolled to the Big 12 championship and earned the No. 3 seed in the postseason.
Texas had little problem with Colgate and then earned a hard-fought four-game win over rival Texas A&M in the first two rounds, and then posted sweeps of Florida and USC to return to the Final Four.
The Longhorns were in danger of suffering another heartbreaker in the semifinals when they fell behind two games to one against Michigan. But Bell, who had 11 kills and six blocks, helped Texas storm back to take a 25-11, 21-25, 23-25, 25-12, 15-11 victory that set the stage for Saturday.
For the season, Bell lead the team with 142 blocks and was third with 2.1 kills per set, hitting at a .325 clip.
Bell was named to the All-Big XII first team, the All-Central Region first team and was an honorable mention selection on the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America team.
Bell and the Longhorns should have a good chance to defend their title, as they lose only one senior to graduation.