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Dillard seeks championship as prolific Mean Green career winds down

Dillard seeks championship as prolific Mean Green career winds down

North Texas senior outside hitter Carnae Dillard (5) celebrates with teammates after a score. Colin Mitchell | Intern Photographer

Dillard seeks championship as prolific Mean Green career winds down
November 12
02:07 2015

Brady Keane | Staff Writer

@BradyKeane3

With three first team all-conference awards and a Conference USA Player of the Year honor, senior outside hitter Carnae Dillard has accomplished almost everything possible on the volleyball court in her four years at North Texas.

The only thing missing from her résumé is a championship.

“It’s huge for me,” Dillard said. “It’s cool to have all of those awards, but if you don’t get a ring then it’s like, ‘What did I really do’?” It kind of solidifies all the hard work that our team has put in.”

With Senior Day looming, reality is beginning to set in. Dillard has just two regular season games remaining in a North Texas uniform and one more shot at a C-USA championship.

Her name is already well etched into the Mean Green record book, setting both the North Texas career attacks and kills records earlier this season. She was also named espnW’s National Player of the   Week on Wednesday, which, in addition to a national recognition last year, is the first time in eight years a North Texas volleyball player has received a national weekly honor.

But while the accomplishments on the court are clear, it is what Dillard brings to the table off the court that makes her stand out from the crowd. In 2011, Dillard was part of a four-person recruiting class brought in by former head coach Ken Murczek.

Now as the  team captain, she is the only senior left from that class.

“Her presence in the locker room, her leadership on the court, her ability to get the attention of her teammates,” current head coach Andrew Palileo said. “I think it’s all of that in the locker room and obviously her play on the court that we are going to miss.”

Going back to her early years in the program, Dillard partially credits her development as a leader to former Mean Green standout Shelby Tamura. Now, Dillard is having the same impact on this year’s underclassmen.

“I’ve never played with anyone like her,” sophomore outside hitter Alexis Wright said. “Carnae has a great relationship with everyone on the team. She is so humble, and that’s the crazy thing. She’s an incredible player, and it’s so inspiring.”

Junior captain Amy Henard has played a large role in Dillard’s offensive success over the last few years as the setter for the Mean Green. Having spent more time on the court with her than any player on the roster, Henard agreed with Wright about how much of an impact she has.

Sophomore outside hitter Carnae Dillard spikes the ball during a home game against Marshall on Sunday. Photo by Margaret Saucedo / Intern

Carnae Dillard File Photo | North Texas Daily

“She brings so much to the table as far as motivating the younger girls to reach their potential,” Henard said. “I think she has been a great model for everyone on this team to just go out there and give everything you have and see what it will bring to you.”

Wright, along with sophomore Holly Milam, freshman Hannah Shaw and sophomore Amanda Chamberlain, will have to step up without Dillard next season, as the Mean Green will have to account for Dillard’s NCAA Division I leading 5.49 kills per set.

“We will have to balance out our offense,” Palileo said of next year’s team. “Hopefully some of the kids that have been playing for two years will have gotten better. Hopefully we’ll be able to balance out the system a little more.”

As the Mean Green prepare for Dillard’s final two games in the North Texas Volleyball Center, the team’s desire to send their unquestioned leader out on a winning note has grown stronger than ever.

“It would feel like we finally gave her what she’s given to us all these years,” Wright said. “It would feel like all her hard work paid off.”

The Mean Green host Middle Tennessee State tonight at 6 p.m before hosting the University of Texas at San Antonio on Saturday at 1 p.m for Senior Day. North Texas has yet to play MTSU this season and lost in straight sets to UTSA in September. North Texas is currently tied with Rice for the fourth seed in the C-USA tournament that will be held in San Antonio Nov. 20-22.

But even though a championship is Dillard’s ultimate goal as her collegiate career comes to a close, the task at hand is to give the Mean Green faithful one last thing to celebrate.

“I want to win out at home, and I want to have a good memory of my last home games at North Texas,” Dillard said. “It would mean a lot to go out on top over a team like UTSA.”

Featured Image: File Photo Colin Mitchell | Intern Photographer

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