North Texas Daily

Volleyball controls playoff destiny as end of regular season nears

Volleyball controls playoff destiny as end of regular season nears

Volleyball controls playoff destiny as end of regular season nears
October 29
18:00 2021

North Texas volleyball had to rally off four conference wins in a row to clinch a birth in the Conference USA tournament last season. They had a chance to do the same this season against the University of Texas-San Antonio on Oct. 22 but fell short, losing in four sets. The only difference between the two seasons is they did not need to win on Friday. The Mean Green have two more games to secure their spot, with road games against the University of Texas-El Paso coming up.

North Texas’s 7-3 record in conference play puts them in second place, with UTEP, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and UTSA right below them. The Mean Green have created a bit of a cushion head coach Andrew Palileo believes has been essential to alleviating the pressure that must-win games have.

“Last year, we had to go to the very last match of the season,” Palileo said. “You can relax and play a little more freely.”

This cushion North Texas has built up has not come by accident, as they fired off seven conference wins in a row before the loss on Oct. 22. They still control their own destiny, as they need one win to clinch a conference spot. The team does not want to squeak in the tournament though, they want to punch their ticket with authority.

“We need to have enough grit to win all of our games, even though we technically don’t have to,” junior defensive specialist Aleeyah Galdeira said. “Depending on how much we win puts us in a better place in the tournament.”

The rest of the regular season looks favorable to the Mean Green, as UTEP and UTSA must play each other. UTSA also must play Rice University, who is undefeated in conference play. UAB faces off against Rice before matching up with last-place Louisiana Tech University. All three of these teams have four conference games to play.

Senior defensive specialist Henrianna Ibarra thinks the team can finish the season strong if they maintain a focus on confidence and playing how they want to play. She believes that the Mean Green’s 3-0 win over UAB on Oct. 15 was a good example for how the team needs to play going forward.

“We need to play with the same confidence that we had against UAB,” Ibarra said. “Once we made a mistake, we just forgot about it and played through the rest of the game.”

Senior outside hitter Rhett Robinson has accumulated 403 kills and 5.37 kills per set, the second-most in the nation. Robinson was also awarded American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Week after her performance in the road games against UAB.

The team had been searching for a second option to pair with Robinson on the outside, and freshman outside hitter Andrea Owens has not only filled that position but has taken it over. After being out for over a month at the start of the season, Owens has won the C-USA Freshman of the Week award on two different occasions, and her 2.56 kills per set are good enough for second-best on the team.

“Andrea [Owens] is getting better as she’s come back from injury and she’s working herself in,” Palileo said. “We talked to her about what kind of player she can become as she has worked her way back and I think she’s moving in the right direction.”

North Texas has looked like road warriors all season, going 6-0 when stepping into an opponent’s arena, and hopes to continue their success away from Denton in the regular-season finale against UTEP on Saturday and Sunday. They need one win to clinch, and a sweep will secure them a top-two spot in the division.

Image source Twitter

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Tyler Luker

Tyler Luker

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