Volleyball Claims First Regular-Season Conference Title
North Texas Sweeps Middle Tennessee
DENTON – The North Texas volleyball team claimed its first-ever regular season conference championship with a 3-0 (25-11, 25-21, 25-11) over Middle Tennessee on Saturday morning. The Mean Green finished with a 13-1 record in Conference USA play.
“It’s a rewarding feeling,” North Texas head coach Andrew Palileo said. “We’ve built this program over the last five years and we’re to the point where we have the talent, depth, and experience at the same time, which we haven’t had before.”
Freshman Valerie Valerian led the team with 14 kills at a .609 clip and recorded a team-high six digs. Senior Holly Milam added nine kills and paced the squad with three aces. North Texas (26-2, 13-1 C-USA) committed just two errors on 70 attempts for a program-record attack percentage of .600.
“We were getting really good passes up which helps, especially since they were serving us hard,” Valerian said. “Karley was setting me perfectly, so I was able to kill it.”
“Middle Tennessee did a good job of serving us tough,” Palileo said, “but once we started controlling the match, we were able to get into system.”
Valerian posted half of her 14 kills in the first frame, including four to fuel a 10-0 run to extend the Mean Green lead to 18-6. Milam served throughout the run, recording all three of her aces. North Texas clinched the set on the Blue Raiders’ eighth attack error.
“We were excited about what this match meant and we used that as motivation,” Valerian said on the fast start.
Middle Tennessee posed a greater challenge in the second set, getting out to a 13-10 lead on Bailey Mason’s third kill of the frame. The Mean Green would not lead in the game until an Alexis Wright kill gave North Texas a 19-18 advantage. Freshman Barbara Teakell recorded a pair of kills down the stretch, and junior Karley York gave the Mean Green a two-sets-to-one lead with her second kill. North Texas finished the set errorless on 24 attempts for a .708 hit percentage.
“We were all clicking. We had a lot of energy and everyone was executing,” Milam said.
Milam led the team on a similar run from the service line in the final set, scoring seven straight points to go ahead 13-5. Valerian posted three kills in the run to reach double-digit kills for the 12th time this season. The Mean Green displayed their depth and balance with kills from five different players the rest of the way, taking the final set, 25-11.
“We were all just really determined,” Milam said. “We knew what was at stake and we wanted to put it away.”
“We tell those girls on the bench ‘you’re playing against one of the top teams in the conference every day in practice, so your confidence should be high going into the matches’,” Palileo said.
North Texas will be the No. 1 seed at the Conference USA Volleyball tournament, beginning Nov. 17 in Bowling Green, Ky.
• The Mean Green’s .600 hit percentage tops the previous program record set in 2011, when North Texas posted a .527 attack percentage against Texas Southern.
• The win marks the second overall conference title, joining the 1995 squad that won the Southland Conference tournament.
• Amanda Chamberlain passed Jessica Brown for the seventh-most kills in school history (1,006).