North Texas Daily

Kerestine, Dillard share similar paths to Mean Green stardom

Kerestine, Dillard share similar paths to Mean Green stardom

November 05
01:45 2015

Alex Lessard | Staff Writer

@alexlikechexmix 

Having one star athlete shatter school records on a yearly basis doesn’t happen too often.

But North Texas has two.

Volleyball outside hitter Carnae Dillard and soccer goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine, both seniors, have experienced eerily similar career paths in their times at North Texas. Each of them earned a starting spot during their freshman seasons and blew away expectations. Three years later, coaches, players and fans have learned not to expect anything other than dominance.

“The only thing I really wanted coming into this was to play. I didn’t want to sit on the bench,” Kerestine said. “I put all my time and effort into making sure I was the starter. With starting, everything just fell into place.”

The duo’s trophy shelves are certainly nearing capacity now. Kerestine holds every goalkeeping record possible at North Texas, including goals-against-average, save percentage and shutouts. This season she became the first goalkeeper in North Texas history to collect both 300 saves and 50 wins.

Redshirt senior soccer goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine and senior volleyball outside hitter Carnae Dillard are two of the top athletes in their respective sports. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Redshirt senior soccer goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine and senior volleyball outside hitter Carnae Dillard are two of the top athletes in their respective sports. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Dillard has also established herself as a North Texas great, becoming the school’s all-time attacks leader and sitting in the top three in kills and attacks. She’s received first team all-conference honors in every season and was named the Conference-USA player of the year as a junior.

Through the years, taking on a bigger role and becoming a leader has been one of the most valuable aspects of their games from a coaching perspective. After coming to North Texas as part of a five-player freshmen class, Dillard is the only senior on this year’s roster. Despite the impact she’s made this season with little help, her leadership on the court took time to develop into what it is today.

“I don’t really talk much on the court. I’m not a vocal leader,” Dillard said. “It was kind of hard for me to get out of my comfort zone, be more vocal on the court and tell the girls that where I come from, we work for each other.”

Turns out, Kerestine is the polar opposite.

“I’m very vocal. Anything anyone ever knows about me is that I’m loud,” Kerestine said. “I know some of the other things I can’t do as well as the other girls because I’m not a field player. So I try and do more of the vocal encouragement.”

The skills Kerestine and Dillard have manufactured throughout their careers have helped their respective teams succeed year in and year out. Both teams have posted nothing but winning seasons since their arrivals, and both believe they have a great chance of making a deep tournament run in 2015.

While volleyball finds itself in fourth place in the C-USA standings with just over a week remaining in the regular season, soccer became C-USA regular season champs for the second consecutive year. However, both teams will likely need to win their conference tournaments to have a shot at achieving their biggest goal: making the NCAA tournament.

Because of their consistent success, North Texas soccer and volleyball often face extremely motivated teams looking to make a statement. Just three years after leaving the Sun Belt to join C-USA, the teams have established themselves as perennial contenders.

“Everybody that has been in C-USA hates us because we’re newbies,” Kerestine said. “We come in and give them a run for their money. They want to beat us more than anything.”

However, being on the opposite side of the spectrum is just as difficult.

“Going into conference, there’s going to be some tough teams, but you can’t let them beat you just on their name alone,” Dillard said.

To keep Dillard sharp during the final stretch of her career, volleyball head coach Andrew Palileo is always looking for new ways to motivate his star player.

“The last couple weeks, I’ve tried to challenge her every day in practice in one area or another,” Palileo said. “I’m always trying to put a carrot in front of her or a goal in front of her to be better in certain areas.”

Once their collegiate careers are over, Dillard and Kerestine both hope to play professionally either in the states or overseas. After that, they plan on using their experiences from classes they’ve taken together at North Texas to start coaching in their hometowns.

Even with future decisions looming, winning the C-USA tournament is the only thing on their minds right now.

“I want this more than anything,” Kerestine said. “It’s now or never, honestly. It’s do or die.”

The pressure is even more intense for Dillard, who will play the tournament in her hometown of San Antonio.

“I want it even more because I have a whole bunch of people there watching,” Dillard said. “You got all the awards, but if you didn’t get a conference championship, what did you really do?”

Featured Image: Redshirt senior soccer goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine and senior volleyball outside hitter Carnae Dillard are two of the top athletes in their respective sports. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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