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With regular season title in hand, volleyball looks to punch ticket to NCAA Tournament

With regular season title in hand, volleyball looks to punch ticket to NCAA Tournament

November 15
10:44 2017

The North Texas volleyball team was rewarded for its first regular season conference championship, as well as its win over Western Kentucky University, with the No. 1 seed in the annual Conference USA Championship tournament.

In the opening round of this year’s tournament, the Mean Green (26-2, 13-1) face Marshall University (11-18, 6-8) at 5 p.m. Friday — a team they swept just two weeks ago on the road.

“We did a good job last time we played them,” head coach Andrew Palileo said. “Our matches with Marshall tend to be really exciting, so I’m expecting them to play better. It’s the conference [tournament] so everything kinda gets thrown out the window, and we start a different phase of our season.”

While Marshall’s effort will be there, the Mean Green have been on such a roll that their confidence level remains extremely high.

Their 14 straight wins have put them in a favorable position. Now, they are aiming to capitalize on it.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be confident because we’ve beaten every team in the tournament,” junior setter Karley York said. “We swept Marshall, but I don’t think they played their best, so we’re expecting a little bit of a different [match] from them.”

If North Texas can dispatch Marshall Friday night in Bowling Green, Kentucky, a semifinal match would be against the winner of a game between the University of Texas at San Antonio and Florida Atlantic University.

The Mean Green beat both teams in four sets in the regular season. While North Texas remains locked in on one match at a time, the match following will be intriguing for them to watch.

“I don’t really have a preference,” senior middle blocker Amanda Chamberlain said. “They’re both good, so it’ll be interesting to see who wins that matchup.”

A beneficial part of the draw for North Texas is its sole loss in conference play came to the University of Southern Mississippi, which got the No. 6 seed and is on the other side of the bracket.

Regardless of who the Mean Green face, from Marshall all the way to a potential rematch against Western Kentucky, Palileo knows the trickiness of being in a win-or-go-home position — especially now as the No. 1 seed.

“At this point, if you don’t bring the energy and the efficiency in these tournament matches, you can get bounced pretty easy against all these teams,” Palileo said. “So our main focus is to continue to bring what we brought all year which is our effort, and everything will fall into place.”

North Texas is entering a tournament setting for the first time since September and could potentially play three matches in three days. The team’s depth, which Palileo has raved about, should lessen the tread on his players from game to game.

The only real challenge is having a limited time to prepare for their next matchup after each win.

“It’s a good thing,” Chamberlain said. “We have a certain amount of time to prepare for each team if we win, and we’ve played tournaments before so it’s not unfathomable, it’s just who can make the adjustments quicker.”

North Texas is entering the tournament having received four votes in the NCAA Top 25 poll and ranks No. 48 in RPI. A loss in one of the first two rounds could hinder the team’s chance of getting a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

A championship appearance should get the job done as far as the selection committee is concerned, but there is real pressure on the team to perform well and win to ensure a trip to the big dance.

“It’s something that we put ourselves in a position to have that conversation,” Palileo said. “Right now we have two opportunities, one through at-large and one through a conference tournament. My players are definitely aware of where we are, and [we] have something to play for.”

Featured Image: The Mean Green volleyball team defeated Western Kentucky University 3-2. The team won with a 38-game win streak in Conference USA play. Kelsey Shoemaker

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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