DENTON, Texas - After the Mean Green volleyball team left the Southland Conference following the 1995 season, you could hardly call its continued series with Stephen F. Austin a "rivalry". Sure, the two former conference mates played almost every year, but the Lady Jacks owned their in-state foe with an 8-0 mark.
But that all changed last season, when Brittani Youman pounded home 13 kills and Amy Huddleston landed 12 as NT knocked off SFA, 3-2, for the first time since that fated 1995 campaign.
The win was a huge monkey off the Mean Green's back, and gave NT four wins in its last six matches heading into Sun Belt Conference play. This year's match with the Lady Jacks has just as much importance for a Mean Green squad that is 1-3 against Southland teams, and will begin league play on Sept. 24.
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New head coach Ken Murczek has seen flashes of brilliance from his team, including a trio of talented players - Huddleston, Kayla Saey and Sarah Willey.
Huddleston not only became the fifth player in North Texas history to top the 1,000 kill mark, but also earned CenturyLink Premier All-Tournament team honors after piling up 62 total kills (3.82 per set) last weekend, including a team-season best 23 kills against UT-San Antonio on Sunday. The senior piled up double-figure kills in each match on the weekend and had two double-doubles. Huddleston now ranks fourth in career kills (1,030) and fifth in career attacks (2,767) in Mean Green history.
Willey, last week's Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week, was just as dazzling as last week in racking up 4.59 digs per set and 78 total digs on the weekend. Willey tallied 30 digs against UTSA on Sunday, which is a career high and the ninth most in North Texas history, and tied for the third most in the Sun Belt this year. Willey also tallied a .969 reception percentage, which means the junior allowed only three reception errors in 98 attempts.
At her current pace, Saey could challenge for one of the top spots on the program's career digs list. The junior already ranks sixth in NT history with 1,660 assists. Saey posted a career-best 8.93 assists per set last season, and is bettering that in '10 with 10.67 per set. She would need to average approximately 13.7 assists per set for the rest of her career to catch Kristin Sheppard's 4,394 (2001-03), but has a better chance at Michelle Dressel (1992-95) at 3,889 in second place.
North Texas takes the court against the Lady Jacks at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night. Live stats are available through sfajacks.com.