Errors Plague North Texas In Jayhawk Classic Loss
Despite Three Consecutive Losses, Senior Forst Shines Back At Home
Senior Hanna Forst led the team with a .277 hitting percentage during the tournament (photo by Rick Yeatts)
LAWRENCE, KS--North Texas fell in five sets (25-22, 25-20, 21-25, 21-25, 11-15) to Cleveland State early Saturday afternoon, closing out a rough road trip to Kansas for the Jayhawk Classic. The final score marked the first weekend this season that the Mean Green have failed to capture at least one win (0-3), after previously dropping matches to No. 24 Kansas and Arkansas on Friday.
"I thought we were a little tentative this weekend in many aspects of our game," head coach Andrew Palileo said. "Our level of play had more to do with the competitive spirit we came in with and less to do with the opponents we played."
A seemingly reenergized North Texas squad came out firing on all cylinders in the first two sets, after finally finding a lineup that seemed to click. A new team vibe could be sensed in the gym as a result of a night of team bonding activities, film and team-only meetings to refocus the lens of the group. The Mean Green rushed out to a 2-0 lead, looking poised to get back in the win column and pick up Palileo's 300th overall career victory. However, a slew of errors and a less than stellar team hitting percentage in the third set caused North Texas to fall behind for the first time all match and eventually drop the set. With momentum completely stolen from the Mean Green side, the Vikings would force a fifth and deciding frame to set up a stunning collapse. North Texas, after falling behind early, would battle to get as close as 11-13, making fans' hearts beat fast up in the stands. It would all prove too little too late as Cleveland State finished off the set and match with one final service ace.
North Texas, after opening up with the best start in program history, currently finds itself on the longest losing skid of the season at three consecutive losses. The streak is also the longest string of losses since the Mean Green lost four in a row back in 2011. Saturday's loss marks the first time all season North Texas has allowed a team to come-from-behind to win 3-2 after trailing 0-2.
Senior Hanna Forst
2014 Jayhawk Classic All-Tournament Team
If there's any silver lining in the tough weekend, it's the storybook ending for senior Hanna Forst. After recording 36 kills and a team high hitting percentage while playing through an injury in all 12 sets, the "hometown girl" was named to the 2014 Jayhawk Classic All-Tournament team.
"Ever since my freshman year when I found out what the [all-tournament] honor meant, I have never wanted anything more," an elated Forst said after hearing the announcement. "I couldn't be happier right now. This is my first time [in college] to win something like that--I'm a senior--that was my last tournament I'll play in."
What the senior didn't take into consideration is the opportunity that exists in the form of the Conference USA tournament and NCAA tournament at the season's end. After three steps back this weekend, Palileo's North Texas squad will look to put non-conference play behind them and take two steps forward when they open up Conference USA play this upcoming weekend. The Mean Green is aiming to capture its first conference championship since 2012, the final year as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
"We have done some great things the first couple of weeks," Palileo added. "This week we will get right back to work and be ready for the conference opener."
North Texas (9-4), looking to end a three game losing skid, will take on UTEP at 8 p.m. in El Paso on Friday, Sept. 26 before heading to San Antonio to take on defending conference champion UTSA on Sunday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. The Roadrunners, who received votes in the preseason AVCA Top 25 Poll, have struggled alongside the Miners to combine for a 5-15 record so far in 2014.