North Texas Takes Care of Techsters In Straight Sets
Blocking Proves Dominant As Henard Adds to Team's List of Milestones
DENTON - The volleyball team's task for the weekend was simple enough: win on Friday and set up a showdown for first place in Conference USA when #22 WKU comes to town on Sunday.
On Friday night, North Texas handled the first part of its plan, knocking off LA Tech in straight sets behind strong play on both sides of the net (25-18, 25-22, 25-14).
While its not usually the case, a quick glance at the box score reveals exactly what the Mean Green did to pick apart the Lady Techsters in the night's conference matchup. North Texas used a barrage of blocks to disturb the LA Tech offense, resulting in a .297-.093 hitting advantage for the home team by the match's conclusion.
"Anytime that you block the way we did tonight it puts a bit of a hesitation in the attacker's mind," head coach Andrew Palileo said. "When the shots start getting blocked, those attackers start trying some swings they don't usually work on and it can lead to trouble."
North Texas (14-8, 6-1) had 13 blocks on the night, and the team's pressure at the net continued to force LA Tech miscues for the duration of the match. Sophomore Holly Milam led the blocking brigade, notching a career-high nine blocks to lead both teams. Milam showcased her all-around game in the match as she also chipped in six kills and seven digs. Sophomore Amanda Chamberlain added four blocks of her own, while four other players had at least two blocks on the night.
Offensively, North Texas was just as impressive as five Mean Green players finished the match with at least five kills. Senior outside hitter Carnae Dillard had a match-leading 14 kills on .323 hitting in what could best be described as a balanced offensive outing for the team on Friday.
But the top individual highlight of the match came in the night's closing moments, as junior setter Amy Henard dished a perfectly-placed ball to freshman Hannah Shaw, who powered down the kill to go up 23-14 in the final frame. That assist was good for the 3,000th of Henard's career, a milestone that only four other players have reached in the program's history. She finished the night with 32 assists.
With the win, all of the Mean Green's attention turns to the nationally-ranked Lady Toppers of WKU. Despite the excitement that comes with facing the No. 22 team in the nation, Palileo maintains that Sunday's match will be just another C-USA test.
"Right now it's all about trying to get into the conference tournament and make a run," he said. "I know the girls are excited about it. It'll be another opportunity for us to put ourselves in a good position."
North Texas has now won four matches in a row, tying it's best win streak of the season.
The 6-1 conference start for the Mean Green is its best since 2002, when North Texas won seven league matches in a row.
After her .714 hitting performance tonight, Chamberlain is hitting .358 on the season. That would be the second-highest hitting mark for any player in a single year if the season ended today. The record for hitting percentage in a season is .374, set by Carly Collins in 1994.
Dillard is 122 kills away from breaking the Mean Green's all-time kills record. She needs to average just more than 13 kills a set to take the record by the team's senior day matchup against UTSA.
Efficient hitting seems to be the recipe for Mean Green success this season. With Friday's win, North Texas moves to 12-0 when tallying a better hitting percentage than the opposition. The team is hitting .244 on the year, which falls just short of the all-time team single-season record of .245.
Friday's sweep over LA Tech set up a showdown for first place in C-USA when #22 WKU comes to town on Sunday. Start time from the North Texas Volleyball Center is set for 12 p.m.