DENTON, Texas (8/19/08) - Starting from scratch is usually the best the best way in the kitchen, but it hasn’t always been the case when it comes to sports. For the Mean Green volleyball team, which is fielding its largest incoming class since 1981, it actually looks like the recipe for success in 2008.
Teeming with record-setting players and unique personalities, the last North Texas volleyball class left with the record books after the 2007 season, but never quite realized its full potential in the win column.
Enter the Mean Green’s 2008 recruiting class of 10 which has the ability to pick right up where NT greats Jessica Hulsebosch, Katy Prokof and Brooke Engel left off.
“When we chose to come here, coach [Cassie Headrick] told us that she expected us to take on leadership roles right from the start,” said North Texas newcomer Salah Schoenecke, an outside hitter transfer from Cal Poly, which made the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 last season. “She expects us to step up and provide an aggressive example for all the freshmen, and I think it shows with the maturity of this team right now.”
Maturity isn’t a word usually associated with a team of 10 newcomers, but Schoenecke and the three other transfers have made it their mission to combine with the four returning sophomores to help turn the six Mean Green freshmen into everyday players.
The results after just one week have been astonishing. The team is clicking on its passes, covering the floor well defensively and transitioning from a collection of 14 individuals into a finely tuned team. The veterans can notice a difference in this year’s squad.
“This year everyone is excited to be here. Everyone is giving their best on every play, and there is a definite emphasis on the team,” said sophomore Amy Huddleston. “We still have some areas we need to work on, but we are making huge strides every day. We are a lot better off than we were a week ago, and with another week under our belts we will be a pretty strong team heading into the tournament.”
North Texas opens the season at home for the first time in the Headrick era with the Mean Green Volleyball Classic. NT takes on Texas Tech on Friday, Aug. 29, and then faces Jackson State and UT-Arlington on Saturday, Aug. 30.
Meet the Mean Green Newcomers
#15 Chelsea Cook 6-1 Jr. MB Argyle, Texas (Texas Woman’s)
Texas Woman’s Basketball: Played in every game over the last two seasons for the Texas Woman’s basketball team, starting 20 games in that span ... Was among the Pioneers’ most accurate shooters with a 45.2 percent career mark from the floor ... Ranked fourth on the team last year with 3.9 rebounds per game and fifth with 6.7 points per game ... Was even better as a freshman with 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game ... Led the team and tied for the Lone Star Conference lead with an 87.5 percent clip from the free throw line as a freshman.
High School: Led Argyle to the District 11-2A title and the regional semifinals in 2005 ... Was named the district’s Defensive Player of the Year, and the Denton Record-Chronicle Newcomer of the Year ... Was named to the first-team TAPPS All-State squad as a junior and second-team all-state as a sophomore at Garland Christian Academy ... She was also selected to the 2004-05 TAPPS All-Tournament Volleyball Team ... Moved to Argyle High School as a senior and led the Eagles to the Regional Semifinals ... Was a four-time all-state selection in basketball as well ... Was listed among the nation’s top 100 basketball players by Street and Smith’s Magazine and Blue Star Index.
Personal: Born on June 20, 1988 to David and Tracy Cook.
#10 Kati Dillard 6-1 Fr. MB Lubbock, Texas (Coronado HS)
Coronado High School: Earned back-to-back All-District 2-5A selections at middle blocker ... The three-year letterman and two-time co-captain of the Mustangs twice led her squad to the Region 1-5A quarterfinals ... She racked up 386 kills (3.39 kills per game) with a .251 attack percentage as a senior, to go with 99 blocks and 85 digs ... Also an asset from the serving line and on defense, Dillard tallied 38 aces and 85 digs in 2007.
Personal: Born Nov. 13, 1989 to Lisa and Jeff Dillard in Lubbock, Texas.
#2 Jessica Green 5-5 Jr. L/DS Roanoke, Texas (Paris JC)
Paris: Earned Region XIV Co-Libero of the Year honors after racking up 715 digs in 2007, which ranked third in the nation among all NJCAA athletes ... She also took First-Team All-Conference honors after posting four matches of at least 40 digs for Paris, including a career-best 47 digs against Brookhaven ... Was named to the all-tournament team at the Eastfield College Tournament ... Green was just as good as a freshman in 2006 with 534 digs which ranked 10th in the country and earned Second-Team All-Region XIV.
Northwest High School: Was a First-Team All-District 9-4A selection as a senior for the Texans ... Selected as co-captain as a senior in 2005 ... Was a two-year letterman at Northwest.
Personal: Born on April 17, 1988 in Wichita, Kansas ... Daughter of Amy and Tom Green.
#7 Marelle Lepmets 5-10 Jr. S Tallinn, Estonia (Garden City CC)
Garden City: Was named First-Team All-Region VI as a sophomore at Garden City CC .... Ranked 11th in the country with 11.8 assists per game in 2007 ... Her 1,240 total assists also earned her First-Team All-Jayhawk Community College Conference West-Division honors ... Led the Lady Busters to a 24-12 record as a jack of all trades, tallying 55 aces (.52 per game), 262 digs (2.49 per game), 52 blocks and 161 kills on a .271 attack percentage ... Received NJCAA National Setter of the Week honors for the week of Sept. 27, 2007 for leading Garden City to its first home tournament win in eight years. She averaged 12.2 assists, 1.9 kills, 3.5 digs and 0.30 service aces over 21 games, including two triple-doubles on the weekend.
Personal: Daughter of Merike and Ylari Lepmets ... Born on Sept. 19, 1985 in Tallinn, Romania.
#5 Breanne Owens 5-9 Fr. DS Amarillo, Texas (Amarillo HS)
Amarillo High School: Was a key member of the Amarillo High School squad that won back-to-back 5A state championships in 2006 and 2007, the first since Houston Clear Lake in 1983 and 1984 ... Owens and the Lady Sandies posted a 46-1 record in 2007, and won the state title without losing a single game in the seven playoff matches ... A versatile athlete, Breanne also lettered in soccer for two seasons ... Also participated in Latin Club and Key Club.
Personal: Was born on May 29, 1990 to Sabrina and Gary Owens.
#25 Lacy Reasons 6-0 Fr. OH Edmond, Okla. (Santa Fe HS)
Santa Fe High School: The four-year letterman at Santa Fe High School was named to the Oklahoma All-State Tournament squad in 2007 after guiding the Lady Wolves to the state title game ... Honored as an All-State player by the Oklahoma Coaches Association, and was named to the West All-Star roster ... Following a standout senior campaign, she was selected to The Oklahoman’s Second-Team All-City team ... Was named to the Stillwater Invitational All-Tournament team in each of the last three seasons ... Earned the Union Tournament Most Valuable Player award as a senior ... The multi-sport star also played basketball, and was a member of the National Honors Society as both a junior and senior.
Personal: Is the daughter of Terri and Gary Reasons, who won two Super Bowls as a linebacker with the New York Giants ... Was born January 21, 1990 in Ridgewood, N.J.
#17 Kayla Saey 5-10 Fr. S Rockton, Ill. (Hononegah HS)
Hononehah High School: Named First-Team All-Conference (NIC-10) at setter as a senior at Hononegah ... She posted 301 assists in powering Indians to the 4A State Sectional finals in 2007 ... Earned recognition on the WIFR News 23 All-Stateline team in 2007 ... Was a member of the Indians’ run to the state title game as a junior ... A standout in the classroom as well, Kayla was named an Illinois State Athlete Scholar, and was named to the Honor Roll.
Personal: Daughter of Kristine and Jeffery Saey ... Born on August 1, 1990 in Rockford, Ill.
#44 Salah Schoenecke 5-11 Jr. OH Lubbock, Texas (Cal Poly)
Cal Poly: Was a member of the No. 11 ranked Cal Poly squad that advanced to the Sweet 16’s of the 2007 NCAA Tournament ... Tallied 21 kills and 21 digs in 20 appearances for the Mustangs over the last two seasons, including a match against the Mean Green in 2007.
Coronado High School: Was a Class 5A All-Tournament team selection as a senior after leading the Mustangs to the state title game as a junior ... Three-time volleyball letter winner garnered All-District 2-5A team honors, as well as all-city team and Coronado HS program MVP awards as a senior in 2005 ... helped Coronado to a 40-3 mark and the 2004 Class 5A state championship ... appeared in the 2005 Texas 4A/5A All-Star Game and Texas Girls Coaches Association East-West All-Star Match ... member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society.
Personal: Daughter of Debby and Mike Schoenecke ... Born February 18, 1988 in Lubbock, Texas.
#4 Lindsay Stahl 6-2 Fr. OH Midland, Texas (Midland HS)
Midland High School: Was a four-time selection to the 3-5A All-District squad ... Finished her career at Midland High School as the district’s Most Outstanding Hitter as a senior ... Stahl led the Bulldogs in kills and blocks and was an All-Permian Basin selection in each of the last three seasons ... Played for North Texas assistant coach Miranda Orr on the West Texas Juniors club team, where the team captain was either named the squad’s MVP or Best Offensive Player in each of the last three club seasons ... Was named to numerous all-tournament teams, including the Fraulein Volleyfest and the Georgetown Invitational as a senior.
Personal: Daughter of Shonda and Tommy Stahl ... Born Nov. 21, 1989.
#14 Julie Weilnau 6-0 Fr. OH Austin, Texas (McNeil HS)
McNeil High School: Earned first-team all-district honors as a senior ... Led McNeil to a bi-district title in 2007 ... Was a second-team all-district and academic all-district selection and was named to the second-team All-Central Texas as a junior ... Key member of McNeil’s district championship team as a freshman ... A standout in the classroom as well, Julie was an Academic All-District selection in both 2006 and 2007.
Personal: Daughter of Vicki and Wayne Weilnau ... Born June 14, 1990 in Austin, Texas.
#3 Sarah Willey 5-8 Fr. DS Wichita, Kan. (Maize HS)
Maize High School: Earned first-team all-league honors after rewriting the Maize High School record books in 2007 ... Broke the school record for best passing percentage and most digs in a season as the team captain as a senior ... Was a two-year starter at Maize, and was named the team captain in 2007 ... Named honorable mention all-league at libero as a junior ... A versatile athlete, Willey was also a two-time all-league softball player ... Also a standout in the classroom, Willey was a member of the National Honors Society and Business Professionals of America.
Personal: Daughter of Susan and Marshall Willey ... Born March 3, 1990