Dillard Named Conference USA Player of the Year
Junior Receives Top C-USA Honor for First Time in Volleyball Program's History
Conference USA Individual Awards Release
DENTON - Carnae Dillard packed up her bags and headed northbound I-35 until she arrived at the campus of the University of North Texas in the fall of 2012. Wide-eyed and anxious, she stepped into her new home for the next four years at the North Texas Volleyball Center with dreams of taking a rising program to even greater heights. Just three short years later, those dreams are already starting to become reality.
On Wednesday afternoon, just before loading up the team bus for a road trip to the Conference USA Championships in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the conference office released the list of season superlative awards. Dillard, an outside hitter for the Mean Green, had earned the conference's top award; Conference USA Player of the Year.
Carnae Dillard, 2014 Conference USA Player of the Year
(Click for full image)
Not only is this just the second player of year award for a Mean Green volleyball player, but it is the first superalitive awarded to North Texas volleyball by Conference USA.
"What an exciting time to be a part of our program," head coach Andrew Palileo said. "Carnae has been solid all season and her game continued to grow as the season progressed. Carnae's relentless pursuit to always give 100% has translated into her being recognized by the conference coaches for this big-time award."
In the 2014 campaign, the junior has proven to be a force to be reckoned with, lighting up scoreboards all across the nation for North Texas. Dillard, a four-time C-USA offensive player of the week winner, was named the AVCA National Player of the Week on Nov. 11. Her impressive performances down the stretch have led the Mean Green to nine consecutive wins, including five straight sweeps, allowing North Texas to surge into third place in the final conference standings.
"She maintains to possess a humble attitude which makes her a great teammate," Palileo said of Dillard. "I've witnessed Carnae mature as a leader throughout this season and I know she will be the first one to say that she would not have been able to achieve this without the support of her teammates."
"It's really such an honor to receive this award," Dillard said. "Not only have I worked hard to get better this season but my teammates surrounding me have challenged me both on and off the court to improve my game. I definitely have a lot to thank them for."
The award is just confirmation that she is no doubt amongst the elite of Conference USA and even the NCAA. In the second year of competing in the new conference, Dillard has soared to the top of the statistical charts, leading C-USA in six categories (13.07 attacks per set, 1,398 total attacks, 5.42 kills per set, 580 total kills, 5.93 points per set, and 19 double-doubles).
But at a mid-major school how does she stack up against athletes in volleyball power conferences? Dillard's statistical prowess places her in the top four in the NCAA in all six of the above categories. There's much more to the Mean Green leader than stats on a paper, however. Just ask TCU. The metroplex rival Horned Frogs marched into the NTVB Center on Nov. 9 with a three game winning streak, hot off an upset of #24 Oklahoma. Enter Carnae "Killard." The junior completely took over the match, recording 21 kills, two service aces and three total blocks en route to a dominating sweep of the Big 12 Conference opponent.
"She has endless potential and I am excited to see what the future entails for both our team and her individually," Palileo concluded.
What's next for Dillard and the Mean Green? Arguably the hottest team in Conference USA and the state of Texas, North Texas looks forward to taking the postseason by storm. The volleyball program is in the hunt for another first for the athletic department; a Conference USA tournament championship. The Mean Green will get its first crack at solidifying itself as a team to be feared when it takes on championship-host Southern Miss in the quarterfinal round on Friday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m.