Mean Green Overcomes Tragedy, Wins Five Set Thriller
North Texas Hands Marshall First C-USA Loss on Emotional Sunday
"I have to give my team a lot of credit," head coach Palileo said. "In my 17 years of coaching collegiately, this is one of my proudest days--not necessarily because we won, that's a bonus--but because of the way we came to play today."
Tragedy struck the North Texas volleyball family on Friday night, as the team was taking on LA Tech at home. While on the way to the match, Tina Reese, mother of senior Camille Cherry, was involved in a fatal car accident. Dawn Dillard, mother of junior Carnae Dillard, was a passenger in the same vehicle, however she escaped unharmed.
"The girls did a great job, they supported each other well, we laughed we cried a lot this weekend together," Palileo added. "They were able to put everything aside and really go at it today."
North Texas, riding a rollercoaster of emotions this last week, came out of the locker room with a special sense of confidence heading into today's match. The Mean Green, donning purple headbands and accents to honor the favorite color of Cherry's mother, started off set one hot, leading by as much as six at one point. In a more competitive set two, a six kill performance by Dillard wasn't enough to overcome 12 North Texas errors and the Herd capitalized, forcing a 1-1 tie heading into the break. A dominant Mean Green squad rushed out to a 20-14 lead in set three and never looked back, closing it out behind .317 team hitting. After dropping set four to Marshall, North Texas looked determined as ever to finish off the match on a positive note in the deciding set. In the final frame, a key six serve run by Dillard allowed the Mean Green to pull away and cruise to victory, taking set five 15-8.
Dillard led the way for North Texas with her nation-leading 13th double-double this season, recording 24 kills and 18 digs against the Herd. The junior also tallied four service aces to match a career-high set back in 2012.
North Texas recorded 12 total team blocks, good for the best mark all season. Senior Hanna Forst contributed a season high five blocks to the total. Forst also rounded out the offensive performance with 12 kills and a service ace.
Sophomore setter Amy Henard continued her assault on the record books with her second best performance of the season, recording 55 assists and only one ball handling error. Henard remains in seventh on the all-time career assists list.
The Mean Green is now 1-3 all-time against Marshall in a series dating back to 1991. Marshall drops its first Conference USA game of the season as North Texas improves to 3-2 in C-USA play. Coach Palileo looks to keep his team on track heading into a crucial conference road trip next weekend.
"The biggest thing for me and talking to our sport psychologist is letting them grieve, letting them cry when they need to cry, giving them time when they need some time and letting them laugh when they need to laugh. I'm trying to allow them more freedom during this time while keeping us focused and staying on purpose in everything we're doing."
North Texas, after two consecutive wins, is now 7-2 at home in 2014. The Mean Green is 29-8 while playing in Denton across the last three seasons, and has historically struggled on the road. North Texas will have to buckle up if it wants to improve on its 3-2 road record thus far.
"Everything we're going through, we can learn from it and manage it correctly. We can still be a special team even though we're going through something like this right now," Palileo concluded.
The Mean Green (12-6, 3-2) travels to Hattiesburg, MS to take on Southern Miss (13-8, 2-2) on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. before heading to Bowling Green, KY to take on C-USA leader Western Kentucky on Oct. 12 at 12 p.m.
Check MeanGreenSports.com later this week for a full match weekend preview.
Around the Conference
- Western Kentucky 3, Florida Atlantic 0
- FIU 3, UAB 1
- Middle Tennesssee 3, LA Tech 2
- Rice 3, Charlotte 0
- UTSA 3, UTEP 1