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Volleyball offense executing at a much higher level than years past

Volleyball offense executing at a much higher level than years past

Senior middle blocker Amanda Chamberlain and Junior setter Karley York have led Mean Green to a 20-2 record and second best attack percentage in Conference USA. Colin Mitchell

Volleyball offense executing at a much higher level than years past
October 25
20:06 2017

Coming into the season, head coach Andrew Palileo knew what he had on his team — several experienced athletes with a lot of unproven freshmen who would be tasked with coming in and producing right away.

While the raw pieces were there for the Mean Green to have a good offensive season, their production through 22 matches has surprised even Palileo as the team is now 20-2 and 7-1 in Conference USA play.

“I knew that we had balance,” Palileo said. “But if you would have said we were going to hit .300, I don’t think I would have predicted that.”

The number .300 is North Texas’ attacking percentage for the season. The figure ranks No. 9 in the country and No. 2 in C-USA. After hitting .199 in 2016, there are multiple signs to point to for the remarkable turnaround.

It all starts with the woman in the middle, senior middle blocker Amanda Chamberlain.

Chamberlain is currently tied for second in the nation in attack percentage (.459) and draws the defense in, further opening up the outsides.

As the primary setter and team captain, junior Karley York always looks to keep the defense off balance with an array of options when Chamberlain runs the middle.

“Most teams scout our middles which opens up the freshmen on the outside pins,” York said. “We always know that teams are going to double up on our middles, but that’s what we’re good at. We’re not going to go away from it [too much].”

Chamberlain’s high attack percentage is largely a case of the Mean Green having so many weapons at their disposal on the court. Palileo never has to force her the ball because North Texas has other middle blockers like senior Holly Milam and sophomore Emma Eakin who can take some of the focus off Chamberlain.

On the outsides, Palileo has a variety of talented players in senior Alexis Wright on the right side, as well as star freshmen Barbara Teakell and Valerie Valerian.

This season, the Mean Green have five players who average 2.4 kills per set or more. In the past 13 seasons of North Texas volleyball, no team has had even four players reach 2.4 kills per set and only two teams have had a trio of players hitting at that rate.

The depth and variety in the offense is the most perplexing challenge to opposing teams’ defenses.

“It provides a lot of competition, in practice especially,” Chamberlain said. “If you’re having a bad game, they’re always there and ready to step up and take that place. [Everyone] provides something new on the court.”

The aforementioned Milam became the first player in North Texas history with 900 kills, 600 digs and 250 blocks in their career in a match against the University of Oklahoma last month.

The numbers speak to her ability to do it all for this team, and she is one of the central cogs in allowing the offense to continue to click when Chamberlain or Wright need a breather.

“Holly’s versatility is huge for us,” Palileo said. “When one person struggles we can put another player in, and Holly slides to that position. She’s adjusted to [the role] in practice, and she can do the same in game time.”

The catalysts for all of these high flying attackers is York, who has racked up 921 assists this season and is averaging 11.81 assists per set — good for No. 8 in the country.

As a team, North Texas averages 13.97 assists per set which ranks No. 4 in the country. York is at the forefront of that success.

“She talks [and makes] small adjustments after every set,” Chamberlain said. “[We’re] constantly growing and hanging out together so we can have that connection on and off the court. And then just putting up a hittable ball, that’s what she does best.”

The serving on this team has been another key factor in winning points quickly. While serves are typically used to set up the defense, North Texas has been able to be more aggressive and, as a result, has seen its ace percentage rise to 1.53 per set.

Junior setter and defensive specialist Alex Janak has a daunting serve, and Palileo gave her the green light to be aggressive with it. The same is true with most players on the roster.

Both Janak and Milam are in the top 10 in C-USA in aces per set, and their impact has helped the offense as well.

“It’s really helpful if we can get a lot of aces and that’s a big thing in practice,” Janak said. “[Palileo] wants us to be aggressive and we’ve done really well on getting kills off [our serves].”

North Texas is ranked No. 65 in the country in RPI and has already broken several records, climbed leaderboards and impressed the whole conference with its play.

The offense has been the side separating the team from the middle of the pack in C-USA play. The Mean Green average 14.95 kills per set and know in order to reach their goal of making the NCAA tournament, that group will need to continue to dominate.

“We have experience with talent and younger players who have talent,” Palileo said. “We’re trying to establish balance and open up the game a little more, but it still comes down to the players executing.”

Featured Image: Senior middle blocker Amanda Chamberlain and Junior setter Karley York have led Mean Green to a 20-2 record and second best attack percentage in Conference USA. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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