North Texas Daily

Volleyball closes out 2015 season, prepares for life without Carnae Dillard

Volleyball closes out 2015 season, prepares for life without Carnae Dillard

November 25
14:28 2015

Brady Keane | Staff Writer


With five returning starters and 2014 Conference USA Player of the Year Carnae Dillard leading the way, the Mean Green women’s volleyball team entered the 2015 season in August with the goal of advancing to the NCAA postseason for the first time since 1995.

Thirty-three games later, that goal came to a screeching halt as the Mean Green (20-13, 11-5) lost in straight sets to No. 21 Western Kentucky University in the C-USA semifinals last weekend.

It was a disappointing end to a season that was a roller coaster ride for the Mean Green. The team defeated Oklahoma University early in the year, only to struggle against winless Abilene Christian University a week later. The Mean Green also took WKU (31-3, 15-1) to five sets on Oct. 18 before falling in three sets to them in the C-USA tournament.

The loss marked the second straight year that WKU has knocked the Mean Green out of the C-USA tournament in the semifinals.

“We as a staff have to do a better job of preparing our girls,” head coach Andrew Palileo said. “We tried one thing to beat WKU last year, and this year we tried something different. But by the results, neither one of them worked.”

The game also closed out the career of one of the most prolific players across any sport in school history. Dillard set several records this year, including the program’s all-time kills record, and became the first player in team history to win back-to-back C-USA Player of the Year awards.

But now the Mean Green has to prepare for life without Dillard. The team will have to account for an NCAA-leading 687 kills and will also have to replace the leadership that Dillard brought to the court.

“Everyone is going to have to chip in,” Palileo said. “Obviously she’s a great player, and it is hard to replace someone like her. The good thing is that we have everyone else back, but we will have to learn to play without Carnae.”

Junior captain Amy Henard will play a key leadership role on next season’s team. She has spent each of the last three years as the setter for Dillard in the Mean Green offensive attack.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” Henard said. “You don’t realize playing with her that she has all these records. You don’t see it, she doesn’t show it and she doesn’t act like she has them. But just knowing that, it’s incredible to have played with the best player to come through North Texas in the last three years.”

Although Dillard led the NCAA in attacks by a margin of nearly 200 attempts, the Mean Green and Henard began to focus on balancing out the offensive approach toward the end of the season. The strategy brought an increase in attacks for sophomores Holly Milam, Alexis Wright and Alexis Chamberlain, as well as freshman Hannah Shaw.

The group combined for 695 kills on the season but will be leaned upon in a much heavier facet in the coming years.

Milam, who started the season as a soft-spoken player, began to emerge as an offensive force throughout the year before being named Second Team All-Conference last week.

“Pali called me into his office when I won the award, and he said, ‘You’re an all-conference player, so now you have to act like it,’” Milam said. “This past year I’ve tried to talk more and be more involved and be more of a leader. Next year, maybe I can help fill in Carnae’s role.”

In addition to the extra year of experience the Mean Green’s young core gained this season, the team also noted how beneficial the experience of playing with Dillard has been.

After spending the last few years leading the program, Dillard and the team feel the foundation has been placed for things to come in the future.

“I think they will be fine,” Dillard said. “They are on the road to doing great things and becoming a great team. I’m excited to watch them, but it’s going to take a lot of work. And they will have to put in a lot of time to do it.”

Featured Image: Courtesy | Taylor Brasher/Conference USA

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