North Texas Daily

Mother’s fight helps inspire volleyball

Mother’s fight helps inspire volleyball

Mother’s fight helps inspire volleyball
October 17
13:42 2013

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

This summer, when sophomore outside hitter Carnae Dillard was worried about scouting reports for an upcoming tournament or playing well in those games, her mother Dawn received more troubling news – she had breast cancer.

Dillard said she has always turned to her family for support, especially her mom, so it was a challenge when the roles were reversed.

“It made me want to play harder for her,” Dillard said. “With everything she is going through, she still has love for me. Now that I am in college it’s hard and I can’t have my best friend there, but I will call my mom and she will give me her spiel.”

Dillard has quickly become one of the best players in Mean Green history. She was the Sun Belt Conference Freshman Player of the Year last season and is eighth all-time in kills in program history.  She was the only Division-I player with more than 550 kills, 276 digs and 90 blocks last year.

“Once my freshman year ended I knew I didn’t want to just fall off the face of the Earth,” Dillard said. “Having a new coaching staff also helps push me, because they brings in new things that I need to work on.

Dillard said the drive to succeed started in childhood, which was spent moving around the country since her father was in the military. Growing up, she participated in track and basketball, but one day a sign up at her school introduced her to volleyball.

“When I found out that you stay in one spot and don’t run around, I was all about it,” Dillard said.

Dillard started playing volleyball for various schools and select teams as she moved around the country with her family. Eventually, she settled down at Johnson High School in San Antonio, where she met and played with future teammate Analisse Shannon.

“She is the one person you can trust on the court to get the job done,” sophomore outside hitter Shannon said.

They played the entirety of their high school careers together and now are roommates. Not only does Dillard have the statistical numbers to back her as a leader, but she is a leader off the court as well, Shannon said.

But impressive stats and accolades don’t prevent UNT head coach Andrew Palileo from finding areas for his star player to improve on.

“We need to work on her being more of a vocal leader,” Palileo said. “She is just going to get better as she learns the game at a higher level.”

Dawn Dillard has been an inspiration for her daughter and continues to support her over the phone with messages to get her back on track. She is currently undergoing treatments for her cancer and told her daughter not to worry about her.

“Don’t let anything that happens to me be a hindrance in what happens in your life,” Dawn said.

Carnae said her mother has always been quick to give her daughter advice for volleyball and her life, and with the way Dillard has played, it seemed to have helped. Her mother has been in awe of how Carnae can take over a game.

“Sometimes watching her play is like an out-of-body experience and she get into this zone,” Dawn said. “She demands the ball and no one can stop her.”

Dawn said she would love for her daughter to continue a volleyball career after college, but is honest that her short height  might impact that possibility. She stands at five foot eight inches while  many players at her position are over six feet. Either way, she told Carnae to keep playing the game until she doesn’t want to anymore – only then will she be able to enter the “real world” and pursue other endeavors.

For Dillard, her current focus is with her team, in the midst of conference play.

“My goal for this year is to help the team get into the conference tournament and then the a chance at the NCAA tournament,” she said.

Dillard will play with the Mean Green Friday at the University of Alabama at Birmingham at 7 p.m., before she returns home to San Antonio on Sunday in a match against the University of Texas-San Antonio.

Sophomore outside hitter Carnae Dillard leads North Texas in attacks, kills and receptions and is second in aces. She tied her career high in kills with 31 against Marshall. Feature photo by Margaret Saucedo / Intern Photographer.

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