Mean Green Takes Down Tournament Host in Quarterfinals, 3-1
North Texas Embraces #SurviveAndAdvance, Faces No. 2 WKU in Semifinals
HATTIESBURG, Mississippi - Tournament host Southern Mississippi snapped the Mean Green 18-set win streak, but it still wasn't enough as North Texas grinded out a 3-1 quarterfinal victory over the Golden Eagles. After avenging an Oct. 10 road loss to USM, the Mean Green now faces a tough test in a semifinal meeting with No. 2 seeded Western Kentucky on Saturday, Nov. 22.
"It was a great tournament opening win on the road," head coach Andrew Palileo said. "We played well for three sets, and even though we let loose in one, we'll take the win and move on to WKU."
North Texas, entering the night with five consecutive sweeps, came out slightly slow and was forced to face adversity early. Enter the Carnae Dillard show. The 2014 Conference USA Player of the year showed those in attendance just how she earned the award, picking up 22 kills on 63 total attacks on the night.
"Carnae started the match off hot because we were defending and passing well," Palileo added. "I also think Hanna contributed to the effort on both ends of the floor tonight."
Behind the arm of its leader, North Texas stormed out to a commanding 2-0 lead heading into the break, looking to be the fourth top seeded team to sweep its first round opponent. However, Southern Miss had different plans. The Golden Eagles looked like a new team in the third set, rejuvenating an electric home crowd with a dominant 25-12 performance, holding the Mean Green to .000 hitting as a team.
"[Southern Miss] came out really aggressive in the fourth set, while we came out a little tentative," Palileo said. "We didn't need to make any adjustments, we just needed to play better on our side of the ball - it was more about what we were doing and less about what they were."
With all the Mean Green momentum quickly slowed to a halt, Southern Miss began to mount a comeback attempt in a tight fourth set. The Golden Eagles fought to keep it close, but North Texas eventually pulled away late in a frame it never trailed.
"The first game of the conference tournament is always nerve-racking," Dillard said. "We are all glad it's over with - we didn't play our best but we still won. Now we get to move our focus on to the next round."
The road to a championship continues tomorrow when North Texas enters a test with the only team left in the tournament field that it has yet to defeat; (RV) WKU. Tomorrow's semifinal match #2 is set to begin at 4:30 P.M. at Reed Green Coliseum and will be broadcast live on the Conference USA Digital Network.
- North Texas is now 2-0 all-time in the opening round of Conference USA tournament play.
- The Mean Green will be looking to avenge its second straight regular season loss when it plays the Hilltoppers tomorrow in the semifinals. WKU defeated North Texas 3-1 in Bowling Green, Kentucky on Oct. 12.
- The last time North Texas and C-USA newcomer Western Kentucky met in a tournament match was the 2012 Sun Belt Championship match. Third seeded Mean Green fell 3-0 to top seeded WKU.
- Although the sweep streaks were put to an end, North Texas still carries on a 10 game winning streak into the next round of the tournament. The Mean Green continues to add on to a hot streak that crushes the previous program record of seven consecutive victories.
Around the Tournament:
Nov. 21, 2014 - Quarterfinals
- #1 UTSA 3, #8 Charlotte 0
- #4 Rice 3, #5 Marshall 0
- #2 WKU 3, #7 Florida Atlantic 0