Article Originally Published by Rachael Sanders on North Texas Daily
Article Originally Published by on North Texas Daily
After finishing last season with an overall record of 19-17 (11-3 Conference USA), the North Texas volleyball team is prepared to begin their 2019 regular season. Their 2018 pre-conference schedule featured ranked matchups against No. 12 Baylor, No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 14 California-Poly. All three games were losses.
The Mean Green lost multiple starters to graduation, including Karley York, who recorded 28.9 times more assists than any other player in 2018. Despite the loss, head coach Andrew Palileo has faith in the remaining veterans. A few examples Palileo mentioned were junior outside hitters Barbara Teakell and Valerie Valerian.
Teakell earned second-team All-Conference honors in 2018 and Valerian was named to the first-team All-Conference team and United States Collegiate National Team. Valerian was the first member of the Mean Green to play for the national team and recently earned a C-USA preseason first-team nod. With this talent remaining on the team, Palileo is confident the team can replace York’s production.
“It was hard to replace Karley so we’ll just have to adjust with what they can do,” Palileo said.
With the loss of York, Palileo has turned to two athletes to battle for the setter position: junior Kaliegh Skopal and sophomore Kailyn O’Neal. Both are transfers — Skopal from Illinois-Chicago and O’Neal from Southern Connecticut.
Palileo mentioned four athletes who have cemented their slots in the starting lineup: Valerian, Teakell, sophomore middle blocker Sarah Haeussler and sophomore outside hitter Rhett Robinson. Robinson finished last season on the C-USA all-freshman team.
North Texas has been predicted to finish No. 4 in C-USA this season behind Rice, Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky. Rice’s retention might be the key to them winning the conference, according to Palileo.
“Rice would be considered the favorite,” Palileo said. “They return everybody for the most part.”
The Mean Green opened the preseason with an exhibition match against Southern Methodist and fell in three straight sets. North Texas pushed the first two sets to extra points, falling in each one 25-27. The Mustangs captured the win in the third set with a 25-17 win. Skopal notched 33 assists in the exhibition, which surpassed all but two season assist totals in 2018 (York with 1,361 and senior libero Olivia Petnicki 47). Valerian put together a double-double with 15 kills and 22 digs. This was the first time these two teams played since Nov. 21, 2012.
Skopal had 33 assists and Valerian had 15 kills and 22 digs giving her a double-double. North Texas had not played Southern Methodist since November 21, 2012. In 11 matchups, North Texas has beaten the Mustangs once.
“We definitely did good but there is room for improvement,” freshman defense specialist Aleeyah Galderia said. “Through all of these practices we have time.”
North Texas begins the regular season hosting the North Texas Invite, where they will play Illinois State, Pepperdine and Tulsa. From there, the Mean Green have one ranked matchup as of August 29 against No. 23 California-Poly. North Texas opens C-USA play on Sept. 27 against Alabama-Birmingham in Denton and will participate in the C-USA tournament at the conclusion of the regular season on Nov. 22. The combined 2018 record for the Mean Green is 367-344.
Valerian was asked to throw together a motto for the mindset of North Texas heading into 2019.
“Greatness [is] a choice,” Valerian said.
Featured Image: The Mean Green Volleyball team warms up during their practice on August 23. Their first game is August 30 during North Texas Invite. Image by Isabel Anes
Source: North Texas Daily