North Texas Daily

Athleticism jumps Mean Green above competition

Athleticism jumps Mean Green above competition

October 09
23:41 2012

Tim Cato / Staff Writer

Seven feet 4 inches. That’s the height of a women’s volleyball net, something many people would find hard to reach.

Unfortunately for  UNT volleyball’s opponents, someone did not get that memo to the Mean Green volleyball squad. Instead of only recruiting players with height, head coach Ken Murczek recruited players who are athletes.

“Some schools are really focused on height – you have to be 6 foot 2, you have to be 6 foot 3 – and you make the team around that,” Murczek said. “We have some undersized players, but to me if they can get off the ground and have a fast arm, that’s [more] important.”

Freshman outside hitter Carnae Dillard is a prime example. She stands just 5 feet 8 inches tall, shorter than most people playing her position. Her incredible 34.5 inch vertical jump makes up for all that, allowing her to soar over the net as if it didn’t even exist.

Dillard’s height is not an exception, but rather, a philosophy.

“It’s the most superior athletic group I’ve had since I’ve been at North Texas,” Murczek said.

Only two outside hitters in the Sun Belt Conference are shorter than Dillard, both standing about 5 feet 7 inches – South Alabama freshman Savannah Stewart and fellow UNT teammate sophomore Eboni Godfrey.

Like Dillard, Godfrey’s exceptional athleticism helps make up for her below average stature. Her 30-inch vertical allows her to reach 9 feet 9.5 inches, a full 2.5 feet above the net.

The team’s athleticism gives Murczek major advantages when coaching.

“We try to play a little bit faster to the left- and right-side players,” Murczek said. “We’ve also tried to play the ball a little bit higher in the middle. We’ve got Karissa [Flack] and Courtney [Windham] there, who [both] can obviously jump really well and reach really high.”

Junior middle blocker Courtney Windham stands 6 feet 3 inches, and her wingspan and vertical allow her to reach 10 feet 5 inches, the highest on the team. There are few things more imposing than Windham launching herself above the net to smash a volleyball back toward the earth.

Not every advantage provided by athleticism is coached, however.

“It’s an advantage that we can fight for five sets,” Godfrey said. “[In that fifth set], we’re here, we’re ready, just like we were in the first. We’re really good at tiring people out.”

Murczek also said overall athleticism is a factor in the team’s performance.

“We’ve blocked a lot more balls because we’re more athletic, not necessarily because we work on the skill a whole lot,” Murczek said. “We’re just a little bit more physical.”

When it comes to athleticism and vertical height, one of the first sports that comes to mind is basketball. The players on the Mean Green men’s basketball team are zealous volleyball supporters, frequently attending games to support their fellow student-athletes.

Senior guard Brandan Walton is one of the most explosive players on the basketball team, but even he is astounded at the athleticism of the volleyball team.

“I’m really impressed [with their athleticism],” Walton said. “To be honest, I didn’t really think any girl could jump that high. That’s amazing to me.”

With her maximum reach well over 10 feet, Windham confirmed that she can dunk a basketball on a 10-foot basket.

Walton was as interested as any to learn about the team’s athletic abilities. As the basketball team’s point guard, Walton is used to throwing lob passes to his teammates for a dunk, one of the most exciting plays in basketball that few can jump high enough to pull off.

“She can come play for the men’s basketball team some time,” Walton said of Windham. “I’ll throw her lobs.”

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