Denton (9/21/01) - The North Texas volleyball team (5-6, 1-0) pulled out a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Denver (4-5, 0-1), the defending Sun Belt West Division Champion and the preseason favorite to capture the division title again this season, Friday night at the Snake Pit in both teams conference opener.
Down two games to one, the Mean Green rallied to capture the final two games, 30-27 and 15-7, respectively. Junior middle blocker Tanya Samples (Nocona, Tex.) led the Mean Green’s fierce fifth game attack. She had three blocks early in the match that helped push North Texas out to an 8-2 lead. In just her second match back from an ankle injury, Samples had a season-high 15 kills and a match-high seven blocks.
"I knew I had to come out strong in the fifth game and be an emotional leader," said Samples. "We worked together as a team more than we ever have."
The match was the third consecutive outing North Texas played a full five games and the seventh time in 11 matches this season. The win broke a four-match losing streak for the Mean Green and gives it a 3-4 record in five-game matches this year. The victory was UNT’s first conference-opening win since 1983, it’s first year in the Southland Conference.
"I can honestly say that I was 100 percent sure that we were going to win the fifth game," said North Texas head coach Cassie Headrick. "We had been in this situation many times before, we were relaxed and we had the crowd behind us."
North Texas came out strong to start the match, cruising to a 30-19 game-one victory. However, Denver came back to win games two and three by scores of 30-27 and 30-23 respectively. North Texas had more kills (66-54), digs (60-55), and assists (55-49) than Denver for the entire match. The Mean Green posted a .190 hitting percentage to Denver’s .152.
"We came out strong in game one and knew what we had to do to win this match," continued Headrick. "We were able to make some good adjustments throughout the match. This team showed confidence tonight, something its been lacking. This team now knows that it can compete against and beat the best teams in conference."
Sophomore outside hitter’s Corina Marginas (Brasov, Romania) and Brieanne Fowler (Odessa, Tex.) both registered double-doubles on the night in kills and digs. Marginas had a team-best 18 kills and 11 digs, while Fowler posted 16 kills and 11 digs as well. Senior defensive specialist Brandie Wilkins (Houston, Tex.) led North Texas defensively with 16 digs and Kristin Sheppard (Soph., Setter; Texarkana, Tex.) recorded a match-high 18 assists.
The Mean Green will host Sun Belt Conference foe New Mexico State in a 2 p.m. match on Sunday at the Snake Pit.