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North Texas volleyball shuffling lineups as season draws to a close

North Texas volleyball shuffling lineups as season draws to a close

10/23/2016 DENTON, TX Freshman LekaLeka Kiner-Falefa sets the ball to one of her teammates on Sunday afternoon during the UNCC game. Credit: Hannah Breland

North Texas volleyball shuffling lineups as season draws to a close
October 27
19:27 2016

If one thing has not been consistent for the North Texas volleyball team this season, it has been its starting lineup.

With four freshman, four sophomores, six juniors and only one senior making up the team, head coach Andrew Palileo knew early on it would be difficult, if not next to impossible, to find the perfect combination of players.

“When you have new players coming in, they have a harder time playing at a high level for longer periods of time,” Palileo said, “So [the coaches and I] essentially just said whoever is playing well together [that week] are the ones we’re going to go with.”

Fans and spectators have watched as the season began with senior Amy Henard starting as setter, freshman LekaLeka Kiner-Falefa starting as libero and the outside hitters constantly rotating.

Essentially, they never knew who would play where from one game to the next.

Now, with the Mean Green 5-3 in Conference USA, Henard plays libero with sophomore Karley York taking the reins as setter, Kiner-Falefa is playing as a defensive specialist while the outside hitters dilemma continues.

“Our most inconsistent lineup is always driven by the outside,” Palileo said. “There’s two freshmen out there and also an older player out there who’s not playing very well, so we’re constantly moving.”

Junior middle blocker Holly Milam has helped ease the situation during some matches though, according to Palileo. He said when the outside seems to be struggling, Milam adjusts and is there to back them up.

The most noticeable difference to the team has been Henard’s switch to libero mid-season. The senior who passed the 3,700 career assist mark this past Sunday versus the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has also already tallied 204 digs this season.

“A little bit of my role changed,” Henard said. “Telling the girls certain stuff is obviously more of Karley’s role now since she’s taken over [as setter], and I’m controlling more of the defensive side now.”

York and Henard both the describe the constant change in hitters on the court as not necessarily positive or negative, but rather just an adjustment that has had to be made.

“At the beginning for me when I was setting it was just different because obviously I came from setting [Carnae Dillard], someone who I’ve had a lot of experience with versus people who don’t have that much experience like the two freshman on the outside,” Henard said. “That was a big adjustment for me, but I think Karley has done a great job with picking up where I left off and finishing out the season.”

York has appreciated Henard still being on the court with her although her role has been completely reversed. The women both view this change as a positive thing that can substantially benefit the team down the stretch.

“It helps that Amy is always on the court with me because if she sees something I can’t she can help me out,” York said. “It’s also good because if I take the first ball instead of her, another setter is available to take the second hit, so it’s like we have a system going.”

Palileo said the reason behind the switch came down to experience on the court. Instead of having more underclassman at a certain position, moving Henard to Libero gave more minutes to upperclassman.

“I thought that we were too young on the court,” Palileo said. “I was pretty confident and trusted Amy being in that position and I just wanted our team to be an older group on the court.”

The most consistent part of the Mean Green this year has been the middle blockers.

Milam and junior Amanda Chamberlain impressed on several different occasions, with Chamberlain boasting the third-best hitting percentage in C-USA.

“Amanda has been the main player that stabilizes the middle,” Palileo said. “Amy has done a good job with her change and Karley has really stepped up,” Palileo said. “Those three have been impressive.”

With only six games remaining in the regular season, North Texas is on the brink of tournament play.

All that is left to do now is focus on the tasks that lie ahead.

“I think we have a big chance of going on a winning streak before the conference tournament,” York said. “How we finish up conference play, I think, will determine how we do in postseason.”

Featured Image: Freshman LekaLeka Kiner-Falefa sets the ball to one of her teammates on Sunday afternoon during the UNCC game.  Hannah Breland

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Courtney Anderson

Courtney Anderson

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