North Texas Daily

Mean Green volleyball finish season on hot streak, prepare for NIVC tournament

Mean Green volleyball finish season on hot streak, prepare for NIVC tournament

Mean Green volleyball finish season on hot streak, prepare for NIVC tournament
November 28
14:18 2018

After going 29-4 and missing out on the NCAA Tournament in 2017, the Mean Green volleyball program had high expectations for the 2018 season.

However, North Texas started off 4-11 during non-conference play and was not able to overcome that start to push for the NCAA tournament. Despite this, the Mean Green were positive their youthful yet talented team would learn from a tough non-conference slate that included No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 25 Baylor.

“We had a really challenging preseason, so facing teams that were really good prepared us for the teams we played in conference,” senior captain setter Karley York said.

The Mean Green’s three main hitters throughout the year were all freshmen or sophomores, with Rhett Robinson, Barbara Teakell and Valerie Valerian leading the way for the offense.

North Texas was plagued by injuries early in the season, which included Teakell missing an entire month’s worth of matches.

“Our girls learned a lot about themselves at the beginning of the season,” head coach Andrew Palileo said. “It was more of a character-building situation for us during the beginning and middle of the year with all of the players out. It has made us a better team because it has allowed a lot of other players to step in there and take the next step.”

After being swept in three sets by Rice on Oct. 14 to drop to 4-3 and in seventh place of Conference USA, the Mean Green went on a run and proceeded to win their final seven regular season games and finish No. 5 in the regular season C-USA standings.

North Texas sophomore Valerie Valerian hits the ball in a game against the University of Southern Mississippi on Nov. 10. Sara Carpenter

“Sometimes you get thrown things in the season that [are] out of your control, but it’s about how you manage those moments,” Palileo said. “The players managed it well with themselves, and that’s where I think the culture our program has developed really stayed true to us.”

Another key moment during the season was the first win of an eight-game win streak, which started at Bowling Green, Kentucky, against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The Mean Green took down Western Kentucky on the road for the first time in school history and improved their all-time record against the Lady Toppers to 3-20.

“After the preseason, we really needed a solid win under our belt,” sophomore Valerie Valerian said. “I felt after Western Kentucky we finally got our team solidified and our culture solidified. We just built up that energy, and once we kept winning, momentum started to be on our side.”

After defeating Florida Atlantic in the first round of the C-USA Tournament to win their eighth straight game, the Mean Green’s winning streak ended in the semifinals after tournament champion and NCAA tournament qualifier Rice eliminated them by a score of 3-1.

North Texas played a non-conference game at Wichita State this past Saturday and beat the Lady Shockers 3-1. Wichita State swept the Mean Green in Denton earlier in the season. The win put North Texas (17-16) above the .500 mark for the first time since they were 3-3 during September.

“We are trying both physically and mentally on the court to put the ball down in the right place for our team, and I feel like that’s improved for all three of us as the season has gone on,” Valerian said.

Palileo said there was no panic at the beginning of the season because everybody realized the potential this team had. He said there were flashes of excellence for the Mean Green at times against elite teams.

“I think the players saw that we are a pretty good team and we have a lot of talent here,” Palileo said. “Part of that talent is also making sure the structure of the culture is set. Since I’ve been here, our staff has worked on setting that culture and passing it on to the players in our program.”

North Texas was left out of the NCAA tournament but was invited to participate in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship for the second year in a row.

The Mean Green open play against Tulsa (19-11, 11-7 American Athletic Conference) at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Mean Green Volleyball Center. The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes narrowly defeated North Texas earlier in the year by a score of 3-2. However, that game was played in Oklahoma, and the Mean Green are 10-5 at home this year, compared to 6-7 on the road and 1-4 at neutral sites.

The winner of the match will play at 5:30 p.m. Friday at at the Mean Green Volleyball Center against the winner of Wichita State (13-17, 8-10 AAC) and Central Arkansas (26-6, 14-2 Southland Conference).

“We’re excited to be able to play in the tournament considering just last week were not eligible,” Palileo said to meangreensports.com “Our players have stayed the course and believed in each other throughout the whole season. It will be a fun first and second round with some great teams competing.”

Last season, North Texas advanced to the second round of the NIVC before being eliminated by Texas Christian 3-2.

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore Barbara Teakell hits the ball in a game against the University of Southern Mississippi on Nov. 10. Sara Carpenter

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Bronte Hermesmeyer

Bronte Hermesmeyer

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