Volleyball Falls to Western Kentucky In C-USA Championship
Valerian, York Named To All-Tournament Team
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – North Texas’ hopes of a Conference USA tournament title were dashed by Western Kentucky in a 3-1 (17-25, 17-25, 25-20, 21-25) loss to the Hilltoppers in Sunday’s conference championship. WKU out-blocked the Mean Green, 15-6, and held North Texas to a .137 attack percentage.
“Western came out ready to play and you could tell they’ve been in this moment before,” North Texas head coach Andrew Palileo said.
Freshman outside hitter Valerie Valerian tied for the team lead with 12 kills, along with Holly Milam, and 16 digs, along with Henrianna Ibarra. Senior right-side Alexis Wright joined Valerian and Milam in double-digits with 10 kills and tallied two blocks.
“Val killed it offensively and defensively this weekend,” Palileo said. “The future is looking bright for us.”
The Hilltoppers got out to a 6-0 lead in the first set behind a trio of kills by tournament MVP, Rachel Anderson. The Mean Green would pull within four at 11-7, but WKU proved to be too much for North Texas, closing out the set on a 7-2 run.
“It’s draining when you have to claw back like that, and then when you catch them, you’re a little dead,” Palileo said.
The second set marked another hot start for the Hilltoppers, who ran out to an 8-2 advantage behind a pair of kills and a block by Taylor Dellinger. After Valerian posted two kills, WKU used another 8-2 run to extend its lead to 17-6. Valerian recorded three more kills in the set to get the deficit back below double-digits at 21-12, but back-to-back Milam attack errors set up and clinched set point.
“For anyone, it makes you look chaotic, but you have to learn to stay in the moment and stay calm,” Teakell said on playing from behind in the first two sets.
Fears of a sweep began to set in as the Hilltoppers jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the third set, but North Texas scored five straight points to tie the game. Freshman Barbara Teakell entered the match and posted a pair of kills in a 4-0 run that gave the Mean Green their first lead of the match. A Teakell block ignited another streak of six points, highlighted by a pair of Milam aces to extend the lead to 18-11. WKU stormed back to within two points, but North Texas scored three straight points to avoid a sweep.
“I just wanted to come in and give it all for my teammates,” Teakell said.
Anderson proved her worth as MVP with four kills and a block to fuel the Hilltoppers to a 12-8 lead in the final set, forcing the Mean Green to call a timeout. Teakell answered with back-to-back-to-back kills to slash the WKU lead to one. North Texas then allowed five of the Hilltoppers’ next eight points on errors. A block and a kill by Wright led a 4-0 Mean Green run to once again pull within one at 20-19. Anderson accounted for the final three points of the match on a pair of kills and a block to clinch WKU’s fourth-straight tournament title.
“We talked about playing point by point and not worrying about the end result or winning the set,” Teakell said. “We were focusing on the end results instead of what to do to get to the end result.”
North Texas will learn if it receives an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in the Selection Show on Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. CT .
• Valerian had a double-double in each match of the tournament, averaging 3.58 kills per set and 4.75 digs per set.
• The 2017 team now ranks sixth in school history in single-season block assists (378), seventh in assists (1,562), ninth in single-season kills (1,681) and 10th in total blocks (250).
• Milam passed Anne Pope for the sixth-most career block assists (246) in program history.
• Sunday’s .137 team hitting percentage is the lowest in a match this season.
• York passed Heather Maddox for the fifth-most assists in a single season in school history (1,341).