Three Clicks of the Heels... And NT's Forst Heads Home
For Senior Hanna Forst, 'We're Not In Kansas Anymore' Has Extra Meaning
On the surface, Friday's matchup with #24 Kansas on the road seems like just another "David versus Goliath" scenario for Mean Green volleyball. After conceding defeat only once this season to a power conference school, then-#5 Missouri of the SEC, North Texas enters Lawrence, Kansas, with something to prove on the court. However, for senior Hanna Forst, this weekend represents much more than that. For Forst, this weekend means she's coming home.
"I'm from Lenexa, Kansas. But I usually say Kansas City, because no one around here knows where Lenexa is," she explained.
Senior Hanna Forst, 8th Grade
For comparison's sake, Lenexa, a part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, is closer to Lawrence than Denton is to Fort Worth. In fact, the two cities are only a short 31-mile straight shot down Kansas Highway 10 away from each other.
"I'm really excited to go home and play in front of my hometown again. I can't wait to welcome the team into my home and for them to see where I'm from and what it's all about. It has always been one of my dreams to host my team at my house."
North Texas, typical of most schools in the state, has a roster stocked with Texas talent, as 11 of their 15 student-athletes are from Texas. Including Forst, only four others on the roster hail from outside the state. The upcoming trip to Kansas will be this squad's first opportunity to play outside the state of Texas this season, providing a true road test. Yet, for Forst, it remains a homecoming of sorts.
"The last time I was home [in Kansas] was back in May of this year, for my grandpa's funeral," Forst said as her emotions began to show. "My grandma is coming to this game, and she hasn't seen me play volleyball since one game my senior year [of high school]. I cried when my mom told me she was making the drive to Kansas City from St. Louis with one of my aunts and a few cousins. I have a lot of friends from KU and [Kansas] State, and random parents of girls that I played with in high school, that are all making the drive to see me play."
At first glance, North Texas' schedule looks to be a random slate of 30 games, roughly half of which are set in stone by the conference office. However, playing in Lawrence this weekend is no coincidence. Welcome to the mastermind of head coach Andrew Palileo.
Forst's club team after
2009 National Championship
"Last September, during my junior year, coach Palileo called me into his office and said `Hey, we're going to try and go to Kansas next year.' I was like `Are you serious?!' and then he showed me his recent call history with [KU volleyball coach] Ray Bechard's name on it," Forst described. "I instantly started crying--I couldn't be more grateful for this opportunity."
The opportunity is the second example of Palileo's accommodating scheduling philosophy this season. Two weeks ago, the Mean Green traveled southbound I-35 to San Marcos, the hometown of freshman Mikali Myers, to play in the Texas State Delta Zeta Classic.
"Making a schedule that is both beneficial to us, and that serves as a barometer for our team and where it's at, is very tricky," coach Palileo said. "Going to [Texas State and] Kansas was always a part of the plan. We try to go to the home areas of our out-of-state kids at least once in their four year careers here at North Texas."
This weekend presents yet another interesting storyline for Forst. After declining an offer from coach Bechard and KU, she accepted an invitation to play for South Carolina of the SEC, where she faced much adversity. Now, after transferring to North Texas two years ago, Forst has an excellent opportunity for closure when the Mean Green takes on its second SEC opponent of the season in Arkansas, in a night game on Friday.
"It's going to be incredible. I hope I don't let my emotions take over, I think--if anything--I'll use them as fuel for the game. I'm really excited. I feel like not many coaches do this for their teams. It's one of those things that makes you think `Wow, he really cares about us' and he really wants to make us happy, you can tell by him doing this for me and our team. I probably haven't thanked coach as much as I should have."
Forst, along with the rest of Mean Green volleyball, can return the favor to Coach Palileo by picking up their fourth win this season against a team ranked higher than North Texas in the final RPI poll last season. North Texas takes on Kansas at noon on Friday in Lawrence at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. The match will be broadcast live by ESPN3 and can be viewed on mobile devices and tablets via the WatchESPN app.
Make sure to follow our journey throughout the weekend on Twitter! And click the graphic to the right to watch the match LIVE for free!