North Texas was on quite a roll not all that long ago.
The Mean Green won seven out of eight Conference USA matches beginning in early October. That run gave UNT a whole lot of confidence.
The feeling is one the Mean Green are trying to regain heading into C-USA’s postseason volleyball tournament that will be played this weekend on the campus of Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia.
UNT (15-11) enters the eight-team event as the No. 3 seed from the West Division and will take on Middle Tennessee in a 1 p.m. match on Friday. The Blue Raiders are the No. 2 seed from the East Division.
“We’re confident,” UNT coach Andrew Palileo said. “We just need to sustain our energy and work ethic. We have the talent and athleticism to compete with any team in our league. It’s a matter of how long we can sustain our focus and stick with the game plan in our matches.”
UNT didn’t have any problem reaching that goal during its hot streak late in the season. The Mean Green lost that consistency in a hurry on the final weekend of the regular season when they were swept in a pair of matches by UTEP.
UNT needed to win one of those two matches to claim the No. 2 seed from the West. That opportunity slipped away in a flash.
“We’ve rebounded from last week,” UNT outside hitter Rhett Robinson said. “Nothing was working and we kind of panicked. We can get back on track. I see the energy we have in practice. We want to do something special.”
UNT will have to travel a tough road to reach that goal. The Mean Green will have to get back on track against the Blue Raiders (8-10) before what could be consecutive matches against powerhouse programs.
UNT could meet Rice in the second round and Western Kentucky in the championship game. WKU is ranked No. 18 nationally in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, while Rice is receiving votes.
“It will be tough, but we know the road going into it,” Robinson said.
Robinson will lead the way for UNT after posting 450 kills in the regular season. The former Krum standout was named to the All-C-USA first team on Thursday. Middle blocker Sarah Haeussler was a second-team selection, while outside hitter Andrea Owens was an all-freshman team pick.
The Blue Raiders have a balanced team featuring five players with at least 100 kills. Junior outside hitter Samira Lawson Body leads MTSU with 236 kills.
“They’re a good team that has improved every season Chuck has been there,” Palileo said of MTSU coach Chuck Crawford. “They play hard. In our league, if you play hard, you have a chance.”
UNT put forth that kind of effort during its run of success late in the season before stumbling at UTEP. The Mean Green are confident they can get back on track heading into the conference tournament.
“Besides that last weekend, we were playing well and playing hard,” Palileo said. “We have had a good amount of time in practice since.”