JONESBORO, Ark. - In a duel befitting the Sun Belt West Division leaders, the North Texas volleyball team posted its biggest comeback of the season in a 3-2 win on Saturday night at ASU's HPESS Center (25-23, 18-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-12).
North Texas (18-12, 10-5 SBC West) cruised in the first set before the Red Wolves (14-11, 8-5 SBC West) answered back with two straight hard-fought wins. The Mean Green, which was 0-8 in 2010 when trailing after three sets, held on in the fourth, and pounded ASU in the fifth to stay alive in the SBC West title race.
The Mean Green and ASU are now tied in standings, but the Red Wolves hold the tiebreaker thanks to a 5-4 set advantage over the two matches this year. NT will need a win at home over Denver in Friday's regular season finale, and an ASU loss in one of its final three matches to win the SBC West crown.
"This team showed some heart tonight. It would have been really easy to lay down after last night's loss, but they came back on fire against a really good Arkansas State team," said North Texas head coach Ken Murczek.
Sarah Willey became just the second player in North Texas history to rack up over 500 digs in a single season when she notched her ninth dig in the third set. The junior joins her former coach Jessica Hulsebosch, who had three 500-plus dig campaigns from 2005-07, and now has 513 for her career.
Down a set, North Texas needed a bounce-back performance in the fourth and got one. The Mean Green led by as many as seven, and held on to send the match to a fifth and deciding frame. NT hit .303 in the set and forced nine ASU attack errors.
NT jumped out to a three-point lead in the fifth frame, but ASU answered back to take an 8-7 lead on an Ashley Tipps block. Right on cue, Shelley Morton and Brittani Youman responded with kills to vault NT back into the lead for good. Amy Hudldeston made it 14-12 with a kill, and Brittani Youman ended the match with a shot down the right sideline.
Huddleston led the Mean Green offensive efforts with 18 kills, and Kayla Saey posted her 11th 50-plus assist match with 53. Shelley Morton added in her fourth double-double of the year with 11 kills and 18 digs.
Lacy Reasons' ace put the Mean Green ahead, 7-5, to start the first. Kayla Saey and Melanie Boykins combined for a block, and Amy Huddleston laid down a cross-court kill that carried that lead late into the set at 22-20. Rachelle Wilson stepped in front of a Cayla Fielder attack to score the set-clinching block.
Wilson scored on four of her five attacks in the opening frame, and was a big reason NT pulled out the 25-23 win.
The Red Wolves controlled much of the early second set until a Brittani Youman slam up the middle tied the frame at 12 each. Ultimately, ASU had the answer, and pulled away for a 25-18 win after leading by as many as seven.
Shelley Morton put NT ahead 18-13 in the third set, but a 7-0 Red Wolves run gave ASU its first lead - a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Arkansas State hit .282 in downing NT 25-22 in the fourth.