North Texas Daily

Preview: Volleyball looks to continue early success in the North Texas Challenge

Preview: Volleyball looks to continue early success in the North Texas Challenge

Preview: Volleyball looks to continue early success in the North Texas Challenge
September 08
21:08 2021

North Texas volleyball looks to continue early-season success in the 2021 North Texas Classic tournament against Jackson State University, Montana State University and Abilene Christian University on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11.

“We want to build off of what we’ve been doing for the last two weeks,” graduate setter Kaliegh Skopal said. “We’ve come into practice really focused, so we’re looking to grow and get better as we face some new teams this weekend.”

The Mean Green (4-2) came off a 3-1 win against the University of Texas – Arlington on Sept. 4, with senior Rhett Robinson tallying a season-high 28 kills in the match.

“We gotta spread that ball out a little bit more,” head coach Andrew Palileo said. “Rhett’s done a good job, but we need to just to make it a little bit more diverse.”

North Texas has a history with the Jackson State Tigers (0-3) and the Abilene Christian Wildcats (3-3), but have never matched up with the Montana State Bobcats (2-4). The Mean Green go into the tournament with a 6-0 record against the Tigers as well as a 5-0 record against the Wildcats. North Texas also has the best win percentage among its opponents this weekend in terms of games (.667) and sets won out of sets played (.583). 

“We’re still trying to handle things on our side of the net,” Palileo said. “It’s not so much about the record, but about doing things the right way so we can put ourselves in position to win.”

Jackson State goes into the tournament this weekend with a nine-set losing streak and a 0-3 record. The Tigers have been outscored by its opponents in every team stat besides serve errors and solo blocks. Along with North Texas’s 6-0 record against Jackson State, the Mean Green have lost one set out of 19 played in school history against the Tigers.

Although Montana State currently holds a 2-4 record, the numbers suggest they are a similar team to North Texas. Both teams average comparable numbers in reception errors per set and blocks per set, but the Mean Green have a slight edge in kills per set allowed to opponents with 10.9 compared to Montana State’s 12.2. The Bobcats are also coming off a three-game losing streak.

The North Texas Classic will be the first set of road games for the Abilene Christian Wildcats after two tournaments at home. This is the first matchup between North Texas and Abilene Christian since 2019, where the Mean Green won 3-0 on the road. The Wildcats average more digs per set with a mark of 16.1 per set against North Texas’s 13.9, but the Mean Green boasts more kills and aces per set, recording 12.8 kills and 2.0 aces per set. 

Palileo is using these non-conference games against Jackson State, Montana State and Abilene Christian as a tune-up for upcoming Conference USA play.

“I think that all the preseason matches are about getting better at what we’re trying to do,” Palileo said. “We want it to become more clear to our players that this is what we do well, and that this is what our system does.”

Redshirt senior libero Henrianna Ibarra believes that the key to success in the tournament will be to come together as a team.

“I’m expecting for us to play with some grit and play together,” Ibarra said. “I think this will be a little bit more competition than the last tournament, so let’s see how we can handle a challenge.”

Featured Image: Senior middle blocker Miranda Youmans prepares to spike the ball against Louisiana Tech on March 15, 2021. Photo by Zachary Thomas

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Tyler Luker

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