Mean Green's Bid for a Championship Falls Just Short to WKU
North Texas Held In Check, Can't Top No. 2 Seed Hilltoppers in Semis
HATTIESBURG, Mississippi - Having not faced true adversity since an Oct. 17 loss to Charlotte, the Mean Green 10 game winning streak finally came to a halt when it slammed into brick wall Western Kentucky. North Texas fell for the first time in November and the last time of 2014, in three sets, to the No. 2 seeded Hilltoppers in the Conference USA semifinals.
"We didn't execute enough to win this match tonight," head coach Andrew Palileo said. "Western Kentucky played consistent and efficient throughout the match."
After watching No. 4 Rice upset No. 1 UTSA in the day's first semifinal match, North Texas entered the match with high hopes of continuing the trend. However, the Mean Green's youth was exposed as North Texas fell behind early as a result of 24 total errors and .155 hitting as a team in the first two sets.
North Texas put up a valiant effort in the third frame in an attempt to spark a comeback, but it just wasn't enough to overcome the mountain of a deficit to the Hilltoppers. Conference USA player of the year Carnae Dillard was mostly held in check by the Hilltoppers, only picking up 13 kills and 11 errors on 45 attacks for .044 hitting against a tough defense.
"It will take a few days to get over this match," Palileo added. "But I thought we made a lot of improvements from last year and as we reflect on teh season we have a lot to be proud of."
A rough ending point certainly shouldn't overshadow the special season the Mean Green experienced in 2014, however. In his second year at the helm, Palileo led North Texas to a 22 win season, the fourth highest victory total in program history, and one win away from a conference championship game appearance.
"Now we'll take some time off," Palileo concluded. "But come January we will get right back to work."
North Texas will return home to Denton with all but three graduating seniors returning in 2015, and along with an impressive signing class, there's a lot of promise in sight. Expect the Mean Green to be a force to be reckoned in future years to come.
- WKU has proven to be kryptonite to North Texas in the last two times the teams have met in the postseason. The Mean Green also fell to WKU in three in the 2012 Sun Belt Championship.
- The North Texas winning streak was finally snapped, ending at 10 straight matches. The streak rewrites the record books however, as NT crushed its previous best of seven consecutive victories.
- The Mean Green is now 2-2 all-time in Conference USA tournament play, falling in the second match in both of its first two seasons as a member.
- North Texas returns nine sophomores, one junior, and two seniors in addition to its signing class for the 2015 season. After a 2014 campaign full of program milestones, the future looks extremely bright. Make sure to bring some sunglasses Conference USA.
Around the Tournament:
- Semifinals #4 Rice 3, #1 UTSA 0