SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – All three Mean Green volleyball coaches participated in the first professional tournament of the newly formed Premier Volleyball League (PVL). Head Coach Ken Murczek was also the head coach of Team North Texas, NT assistant coach Diego Castaneda was named assistant, while NT assistant coach Sarah Rumely played setter.
The USA PVL is a USA Volleyball sanctioned grass roots professional league comprised of teams from among the forty regional associations across the country. The Murczek coached North Texas squad, comprised of 11 women who have all completed their NCAA Eligibility, finished third at the PVL Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 26-29.
Murczek’s roster of 11 players featured 12 NCAA Division I All-America nods, including two first-team selections. In addition to these honors, the roster had three conference players of the year, three league freshmen of the year and nine players with professional experience.
"I am thankful for the great opportunity the North Texas Region provided both my staff and players," Murczek said. "As the goal was to win the tournament, I feel we competed hard and represented the region well. I know everyone involved had an incredible experience and appreciated the support provided by the region."
The team met up in Salt Lake City two days before competition began for a few days of practice. With five women from the Big 10 and four from the SEC there were a lot of familiar faces. The team gelled immediately as they got to work. During the two training days, the team and coaches took a trip up to Park City, Utah to see the Olympic Village from the 2002 Winter Olympics. They also went to Snowbird and experienced one of the major ski resorts in the country. This helped with team bonding and the women got to experience all that Salt Lake City has to offer.
Competition started on May 26. Team North Texas was in a pool with 5 other teams. They played two matches each day and in the afternoon of the third day, the single elimination tournament began. In the first match of the competition, Team North Texas opened up with a 3-1 win over Puget Sound. They came back in the evening and played a match against the powerful team Iowa Ice, which knocked off North Texas, 3-1.
Day two of the competition was when Team North Texas really started to get things rolling. They opened up morning play with a 3-0 win against a very experienced Great Lakes team. In the afternoon, Team North Texas played against the Orlando Wave, a team that had been practicing together since January. Orlando Wave was a very talented team, but Team North Texas came out and rolled past them 3-0.
Day three began with a match against Team New England and once again, the Team North Texas ladies were able to pull off a 3-0 win. The team ended up finishing second in the pool which put them in a good position for tournament play. They were matched up to play Arizona Sizzle in the first round of the tournament. The competition against the very athletic Sizzle team ended up with Team North Texas winning the match 3-0.
Day four started with Team North Texas playing in the money rounds against the other best team in the tournament. They started off the morning playing against the Hoosier Exterminators, another team of players with lots of accolades and experience. Team North Texas battled hard but could not pull it off. They lost the match 3-0, but every single point was a battle.
That put Team North Texas playing in the afternoon match for third place. They played the Utah Unity. Although the Unity had the home crowd on their side, they were unable to stop the power that Team North Texas brought. Team North Texas secured third place with a 3-1 victory against the Unity. The win secured the team with a $3,500 check for the region.
“I was so honored to play for such an amazing region and to be able to represent North Texas,” said setter and Mean Green assistant coach Sarah Rumely. “Everything that was provided for the players was top notch and it allowed us to be in the best position possible to win the tournament. We were disappointed that we did not come out on top, but we are pleased that we battled to win third place and bring home some prize money for the region that made all of this possible. It was great to play with so many girls that I spent my collegiate career playing against. The competitive environment provided a great opportunity for girls to compete after college right here in the USA.”
The Hoosier Exterminators ended up defeating Iowa Ice in the finals 3-1. They took home $10,000 in prize money while the Iowa Ice team pursed $6,500. The PVL will offer tournament play at various USA Volleyball Junior National Qualifiers in addition to the League Championships in the future. The goal is to add a men’s division in the near future.
Team North Texas Roster:
Player – University (Professional League)
Michelle Bartsch – University of Illinois (Puerto Rico)
Angela Bensend – LSU (Puerto Rico)
Ashley Benson – Indiana University (Puerto Rico)
Kristen Dozier – The Ohio State University (Spain)
Courtney Fletcher – University of Michigan (Graduated 2012)
Ellen Herman – Ohio University (Switzerland)
Irene Hester – TCU (Switzerland)
Allison King – Baylor University (Graduated 2012)
Daniella Romero – LSU (Finland)
Sarah Rumely – University of Kentucky (France)
Colleen Ward – University of Illinois
Team North Texas Staff:
Commissioner: Andy Reitinger
Executive Director: Robyn Barlow
Head Coach: Ken Murczek
Assistant Coach: Diego Castaneda