DENTON It is just as it was intended it at the beginning of the season. One match for the division title, or at least a share of it.
The North Texas volleyball team has positioned itself at the top of the Sun Belt’s West division in a first-place tie with Denver. The Pioneers will travel south for each team’s final regular season match Saturday at 7 p.m. - and the one that will decide who adds a trophy to the case.
The Pioneers pulled out a 3-1 victory on Oct. 23rd in Denver, a win that snapped a six-match winning streak for NT.
The Mean Green (21-12, 12-5) has won 10 of its last 12 matches, including its last seven at home. The hot play has helped secure the fourth 20-win season in NT history with a bundle of landmarks and broken records along the way.
Cassie Headrick picked up her 100th win against Louisiana-Lafayette last week after becoming NT’s all-time winningest coach earlier in the season. Katy Prokof also went over the 1,000-kill plateau in the same match.
On the court Prokof and Tara Hooser continue to attack from the outside as they lead the team with 364 and 344 kills, respectively. Since returning to the starting lineup, Ashley Bass has put up 10.95 assists per game and has led the Mean Green to a 10-3 record in that span.
National aces leader Brooke Engel is coming off what Headrick says was her most consistent service week of the season. She will bring her serve back home where she is averaging 1.27 aces per game, well above her overall average of 0.99 per game.
Head coach Beth Kuwata has her Pioneers (19-10, 12-5) as one of the hottest teams in the Sun Belt. Denver had won nine matches in a row before dropping a five-game match at New Orleans.
The defending SBC West champions only dress one senior, outside hitter Lisa Hunter. A preseason all-conference selection, Hunter is sixth in the SBC in kills with 4.02 per game. She has kept up the pace of late, putting in 48 kills over her last three matches.
Clare Maxwell has stepped into the setter role for the Pioneers in 2006 and sits fourth in the SBC with 12.30 assists per game. Her 1390 assists on the season is the most by any freshman in the SBC.
Each team will also be keeping an eye on New Orleans this week. The Privateers have won their last five matches to creep back into the division race. They have matches scheduled this weekend against Arkansas State and UALR on the road. With two wins the Privateers would secure a share of the division title with the winner of the NT/Denver match.
These matches will weight heavily in the seeding process for the Johnny Carino’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament, slated for Nov. 16-18 in Denton. This will be the first time NT volleyball has ever hosted a conference tournament at its home site.