North Texas Daily

Passing the torch: Harness steps up as volleyball’s new setter

Passing the torch: Harness steps up as volleyball’s new setter

Passing the torch: Harness steps up as volleyball’s new setter
October 27
12:00 2022

When volleyball head coach Kristee Porter departed McNeese State University, she reached out to players to recruit them to her new team.

One of the players was then-freshman setter Ceci Harness, a player Porter recruited to play for her at McNeese State. Influenced by Porter’s success with the Cowgirls, Harness’ decision to transfer to North Texas was easy. 

“I gave her an answer immediately — it was a no-brainer for me,” Harness said. “I liked McNeese, but I also knew coach Porter was the one that had turned it around and made it a winning season — it was not going to be the same if she was not there.”

Porter first noticed Harness while watching her play for the Houston Juniors Volleyball Club and noticed her more competitive nature.

“When I am looking for a setter, I want to find the most competitive person in the gym,” Porter said. “[Harness] is super competitive, wants to win and just finds ways to win – you love that in your setter.”

Harness had big shoes to fill when she replaced former North Texas setter and team captain, Kaliegh Skopal. Skopal earned numerous awards including several Conference USA setter of the week awards and second team All-Conference USA honors in the 2019-2020 campaign, her first year as the starting setter.

Harness has already become an important part of the team. She has played in every set for North Texas this season and leads the team in assists, averaging just under seven assists per set.

Harness said she uses the pressure of following a player of Skopal’s caliber to be a leader.

“I know with the hitters I have that we will be successful — our offense is just too good to not succeed,” Harness said. “I really want to help be that glue, I want to be the leader every time that I am on the court — I want everything to run smoothly, and that is my biggest goal.”

Porter said she knew a player like Skopal would be tough to replace. With a heavy turnaround in the team, most players on the current squad never played with Skopal but still recognize her impact. 

“None of the hitters that are hitting right now really got the opportunity to hit off of [Skopal],” Porter said. “There are one or two players that were really comfortable with Skopal, but for the most part the rest of the players are all kind of brand new, and that is the special thing about our team.”

Senior opposite hitter Avery McCrillis was one of the players who played with the former setter. McCrillis played with her for three years but said she had no issues getting comfortable with Harness in their time together this year.

“It was pretty easy for me to transition because Ceci [Harness] runs kind of a faster ball, and I like those faster balls,” McCrillis said. “She just connects really well with all of our hitters.”

Though she is new to the program and a sophomore, Harness said her age has not affected her ability to be a leader on the team.

“I have never felt like I cannot have an open dialogue because I am younger or cannot say certain things just because I am younger,” Harness said. “My leadership skills just naturally come out when it is time to play.”

So far this season, Harness has helped lead the Mean Green to a 10-13 record overall and a 4-4 record in C-USA play. While there is still work to be done to get to where the team wants to be, young stars like Ceci Harness will be around to lead this team for years to come.

“We want to win championships, but we know we have a lot of work to do,” Porter said. “I am really looking forward to just seeing their growth daily — watching them continue to grow and develop, I enjoy each day.”

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Garrett Stringfellow

Garrett Stringfellow

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