North Texas Sweeps Friday's Matches
Pair of Stellar Freshman Performances Fuel Mean Green
BOSTON – The North Texas volleyball team swept their Beantown Challenge matches Friday at the Power Gym in Boston, Mass. The Mean Green (4-1) defeated Bryant in straight sets and followed it up with a four-set win over Princeton to finish the day 2-0.
Freshman outside hitter Barbara Teakell stole the show in a 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-22) win over Bryant Friday afternoon. The newcomer recorded a career-high 12 kills along with six digs and two block assists.
“She was aggressive from the start and that put her in a good place mentally,” North Texas head coach Andrew Palileo said. “She had a good all-around game which should give her confidence.”
While Teakell had a career-best with three kills in the first set alone, the team finished with a hitting percentage of just .188 in the first frame. Things heated up in the second set for the Mean Green, who took a commanding 15-4 lead to begin the game, thanks to a trio of kills each for Teakell and senior middle blocker Holly Milam.
“We started the match a little slow today but found out rhythm midway through the first set,” Palileo said. “We carried that momentum into the second set.”
Alexis Wright, who also finished with 12 kills, recorded her sixth kill of the match to close out the second set. North Texas finished the set with 18 kills and a .385 attack percentage as a team. The Mean Green could not keep the momentum going in the third set, falling behind 17-12 before back-to-back kills by Teakell sparked a 6-1 run that tied the game at 18-18.
Wright picked up her final two kills down the final stretch, including the match-winner, and recorded a crucial block assist that set up match point. North Texas finished with seven total blocks as a team.
“They really played well defensively,” Palileo said, “which gave us extra opportunities offensively.”
The Mean Green defense shined in a 3-1 (25-9, 25-22, 20-25, 29-27) victory over Princeton Friday afternoon. North Texas recorded a season-high 73 digs and made 11 total blocks to hold off the Tigers.
“Our defense drives our offense,” Palileo said, “and we were playing out of our minds defensively which translated into a great transition game.”
The defensive dominance began early on as the Mean Green held Princeton to a -.095 hit percentage in the first set. With a 14-7 lead, North Texas rattled off an 11-2 run to close out the set. Teakell recorded three straight Mean Green kills on her way to career-high 13-kill performance.
North Texas got out to an 18-10 advantage in the second set, but the Tigers scored 10 straight points to go ahead 20-18. Freshman middle blocker Amanda Youmans put an end to the streak with her second kill of the match and set up game point for the Mean Green a few plays later with another kill. Milam’s second ace of the match sealed the fifth-straight set for North Texas on the day.
“Effective and efficient energy was a must,” Palileo said, “and I think we did a good job of sustaining that energy throughout the match.”
It was Princeton who had more energy in the third set, holding the Mean Green to a .095 attack percentage and just 11 kills. North Texas evened the score at 15-15 with a four-point run, highlighted by a pair of kills by Milam, but was outlasted by Princeton. Freshman outside hitter Valerie Valerian, who finished with a career- and team-high 14 kills, was responsible for four of those.
“Val was tentative, so I encouraged her to be more aggressive,” Palileo said. “She really took the message to heart.”
Valerian’s 11th kill of the match drew the game even at 20-20 in the fourth set. Princeton worked their way to a set point, ahead 24-21. The Mean Green scored three straight points, including a pair of Wright kills to knot it up again at 24 apiece. After the schools exchanged service errors, Valerian recorded back-to-back kills to set up match point and clinch the match for North Texas.
North Texas concludes Beantown Challenge play against host school Boston College at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Power Gym.
• Princeton’s nine points in the first set marked the fewest allowed in a set by North Texas since Oct. 3, 2014 against Louisiana Tech (9).
• The Mean Green’s 4-1 start is the best since the 2014 season (9-1).
• In addition to setting a career high in kills, Valerian recorded her first collegiate ace in the second set against Bryant.
• North Texas has nine players with at least 10 kills this season.