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Volleyball advances past FAU in C-USA tourney quarterfinal

Volleyball advances past FAU in C-USA tourney quarterfinal

Senior Carnae Dillard jumps into the air to spike a ball down for a point.

Volleyball advances past FAU in C-USA tourney quarterfinal
November 21
10:23 2015

Brady Keane | Staff Writer

@BradyKeane3

After falling to Florida Atlantic University at the beginning of the month, North Texas head coach Andrew Palileo said that his team needed to fix the little things in order to knock off that same FAU team in the first round of the Conference USA tournament on Friday.

Things still looked sloppy early in the match this time around, but the Mean Green (20-12, 11-5) was able to take care of business down the stretch to pull out a four-set win over FAU and move on to the C-USA Semifinals against top seed Western Kentucky University on Saturday Nov. 21 at 2:30 pm.

The Mean Green overcame 25 ties and 11 total lead changes to move on to the semifinals for the third straight year.

“I thought offensively we were a lot better,” Palileo said. “The difference tonight was a few adjustments we made defensively. I knew that we needed to try and get them out of their system, and our girls did a great job of executing.”

It was a crazy first day of action in San Antonio, as the University of Texas at San Antonio pulled off a first round win over Florida International University without two of its top players and the sixth seed Southern Mississippi grabbed an upset win over third seeded Rice in the first round.

The Mean Green looked to be in danger of following in the footsteps of Rice (21-10) after blowing a large early lead and falling 23-25 in the first set.

However, back-to-back C-USA Player of the Year Carnae Dillard and sophomore Alexis Wright took over in the second set and combined for 15 kills to help the Mean Green run away with a 25-17 win.

“When [Wright] starts getting kills, we can kind of start spreading the ball around and get some defenders off of Carnae,” junior setter Amy Henard said. “If we can get some relief for her, there is going to be an open net.”

From there, Dillard took control of the match to help the Mean Green overcome a back and forth affair. After finishing with just 25 attacks and 10 kills in a win over UTSA to close out the regular season, the senior had 54 attacks and 25 kills in the win over FAU.

In addition to the strong play from Dillard, the Mean Green had another big performance from the supporting cast of Wright, sophomores Holly Milam and Alexis Chamberlain and freshman Hannah Shaw. Shaw finished with 12 kills, Milam and Wright added 10 kills each, and Chamberlain had 8 kills. Henard finished with 60 assists.

“We were two kills away from having five players in double digit kills, which is really good,” Palileo said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all year long, and it’s starting to come around now.”

The Mean Green will look to build on the win as they take on top-seeded WKU Hilltoppers (29-3) in a match that the team, especially Dillard, has been looking forward to since the start of the season.

Although the senior holds several records in a North Texas uniform, Dillard has never beaten WKU in her four years with the program. The Mean Green took the Hilltoppers to five sets during the regular season but was unable to pull off the upset.

Now, the Hilltoppers again stand in the way of a shot at the conference championship.

“We are very confident,” Dillard said. “Now it’s just doing what we’ve been doing as far as spreading the ball around, and just going out there and playing our game of volleyball. We are really excited.”

Featured Image: Senior Carnae Dillard jumps into the air to spike a ball down for a point. File Photo

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