DENTON (11/10/02) - The North Texas volleyball team (15-15, 9-4) entered its match against New Mexico State (21-6, 11-2) on Sunday with a chance to grab a share of the Sun Belt Conference West Division lead, but dropped a 3-1 decision to fall two games behind the Aggies in the division race.
New Mexico State clinched at least a share of the division title with the victory, while the Mean Green remain half a game ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette for second place in the division. The Mean Green will host Western Kentucky, which is 12-0 in Sun Belt Conference play, Friday and close out its regular season at Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday.
North Texas won the third game 30-21 to get back in the match and held a 17-12 advantage in the fourth game, but was outscored 18-5 the rest of the way in a 30-22 setback.
North Texas was hurt by a big New Mexico State scoring run in the first game as well, falling 30-22 after leading 15-12. The second game ended in a 33-31 victory for New Mexico State, but was a battle that could have easily gone the Mean Green’s way. With the score 30-29 in favor of North Texas, the Aggies Abby Stines and Shari Hearne teamed up for a block that just barely fell in bounds to give them life.
"I thought we had alot of people step up today," said North Texas head coach Cassie Headrick. "Of course we’re not happy with the loss, but we proved that we can win and be competitive with very good teams."
Middle blockers Tanya Samples and Brittney Gregory led North Texas, teaming up to account for 27 of the teams 53 kills and nine of its 12 blocks. Gregory recorded four solo blocks and 14 kills, both match highs. Samples finished with 13 kills, three solo blocks and a match-high .400 hitting percentage.
"I can’t say enough about our middle," said Headrick. "They established themselves with the block and in one-on-one situations. I wish we could have got the ball to them more but we weren’t passing extremely well."
Kristin Sheppard also put up big numbers for North Texas with 37 assists, six kills, four service aces, three block assists, one solo block and a career-high 21 digs. Joining Gregory and Samples with double-figure kills was Brieanne Fowler, who piled up 13.
New Mexico State’s hitting percentage wasn’t much higher than the Mean Green, .136 to .119, but the Mean Green was hurt by five ball handling errors and 11 service errors.