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Freshman volleyball star Teakell thriving in perfect fit at North Texas

Freshman volleyball star Teakell thriving in perfect fit at North Texas

November 02
09:00 2017

In her first recruiting trip to UNT, freshman Barbara Teakell went on a tour of the campus with her family. She did not enjoy herself.

Rain poured down on the family and intense winds rendered umbrellas almost useless. It led Teakell to doubt whether or not it was meant to be.

“I don’t know about this,” Teakell said to her parents at the time.

As someone who loves and embraces her faith, it almost felt like a sign pointing the Celina High School star away from North Texas. But head coach Andrew Palileo insisted on her giving the university another chance.

“It just wasn’t a very good vibe [my first visit],” Teakell said. “Then I talked to Pali on the phone, and he said he wanted me to come in [again] and tour the campus. I said, ‘OK, that sounds good.’”

On the following visit, there was better weather, and Palileo made sure she got a much-improved North Texas experience.

“I came in with an unsure mindset because I already got the weird vibes,” Teakell said. “Then I got here and fell in love with it. I fell in love with the campus, then we went out to eat with the girls and the coaching staff.”

After having played for assistant coach Vinh Nguyen on the North Point club team, the young outside hitter easily caught the eye of the North Texas coaching staff with her athleticism and 6-foot-1-inch frame.

“When we first started recruiting Barbara, she did well with her team, and it was fun to watch her play,” Palileo said. “We talk a lot about high character kids and integrity, and she fit that mold.”

After graduating early, signing with the Mean Green and arriving on campus in the spring, Teakell immediately started learning and adjusting to the new pace of play.

But despite her accomplished high school career and years of playing club volleyball, it still took time for her to get comfortable in a Division One setting.

“When I first got here in the spring, it was rough adjusting to the speed of the game,” Teakell said. “But I’m glad I [came here early] because I think it gave me an advantage.”

Her performance this season certainly backs up that sentiment.

Twenty-four matches into her career, Teakell has played in 74 of 87 sets and has an attack percentage of .266. She is averaging 2.7 kills per set.

Teakell has set career highs in two of the last four matches, tallying 20 kills against Florida Atlantic University and 21 kills Rice University just two matches later. In her past four matches, she has averaged a team-best 16.5 kills per match.

But it’s been her vocal presence that has grown the most since arriving on campus at the beginning of the year. On a team with several proven upperclassmen, carving out an immediate leadership role is not an easy thing to do.

“She was kind of quiet when she came in the spring, which is expected,” senior middle blocker Holly Milam said. “She’s already picked up her role, and she’s not afraid to talk to the upperclassmen and keep everyone accountable. Her voice has grown a lot.”

As a freshman on a team filled with capable attackers, defenses have struggled to deal with the Teakell’s ability on the pins. The experience on the court with her at all times has been a huge part of her early success.

“I like to think [the seniors] helped her out,” senior right side Alexis Wright said. “Since there’s usually about four upperclassmen out there with her, [I hope] we can relieve some of that pressure off of her so she can play free and score.”

While her offensive production is what has made headlines recently, it was actually Teakell’s defensive play that got her on the court in the first place.

She has totaled 140 digs as a freshman, ranking sixth on the team. That, along with her passing abilities, has led to more trust from Palileo.

“Everybody loves the kills, but I look at the defensive side of [her play],” Palileo said. “She’s been getting better and better on the defensive end, and that’s what’s getting her some good playing time. She’s balanced that with her offense.”

In her first season for the Mean Green, she’s a part of a 22-2 team that is having one of the best seasons in school history. It has been a great experience for her first go-around.

“It’s amazing,” Teakell said. “It’s such a blessing to come in with such a strong set of upperclassmen because that’s very rare. We’re a big class of freshman so that is really nice [to have].”

Everyday Teakell is sent a Bible verse from her dad, Randy. Her faith is what led her to the UNT on that rainy and cold day and back again the second time. After those experiences, she again turned to her faith when it came time to make a college decision.

Now, both Teakell and Mean Green volleyball are reaping the benefits after it seemed like a rainy day would cause the partnership to never be.

“The biggest thing for me and my family was trying to figure out what God wanted me to do,” Teakell said. “When I decided to play college volleyball it wasn’t because of me, it was because I felt led to play volleyball to glorify Jesus Christ, [and] it has definitely worked out. We’re really a sisterhood [here].”

Featured Image: Freshman Barbara is fourth on the team with 200 kills this season. Teakall joined the Mean Green after playing for four years at nearby Celina High School. Rachel Walters

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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