A volleyball team’s outside hitter holds multiple responsibilities: passing, getting kills, outsmarting the opponent’s middle blocker and overall being ready for whatever plays comes their way. For the Mean Green volleyball team (10-7, 4-1 Conference USA), the three leaders in kills all play at the outsider hitter position.
“[We] are pretty consistent in all of [our] positions: passing, hitting and blocking,” sophomore outside hitter Rhett Robinson said. “I would say you really have to have the mindset that you have to keep the ball in play because some of the out of system sets may not be like perfect.”
Juniors Valerie Valerian (235), Barbara Teakell (144) and Robinson (94) have played a vital role in North Texas’ conference success, according to head coach Andrew Palileo.
“Our outsides are doing a pretty good job,” Palileo said. “We have been getting a little more consistency out of that position.”
The Sept. 21 matchup against Ohio saw the best performance for the North Texas outside hitters. Teakell totaled 20 kills and Valerian was a close second with 17. The Mean Green put up a 36.8 hitting percentage and had 50 kills overall. The hitting percentage was inflated by Teakell and Valerian, who were hitting at 42.9 and 44.4 respectively, about 20 percent higher than where Palileo aims to keep his outside hitters.
Valerian attributes their success in that game to smart play.
“All of us had good hitting percentages and that goes back to the different shots because I feel we were very strategic during that game,” Valerian said. “It might not have been like the killer shots but like I said, we were getting a lot of kills”
Valerian’s highest kill total in a single match this season came against New Mexico, when she put up 23 kills on 18.8 hitting percentage. Teakell’s best offensive performance came in the match against Ohio. Robinson’s season-high 18 kills came against Louisiana Tech, along with a 38.2 hitting percentage. Valerian and Teakell, who are playing in their second full season with the Mean Green, have garnered the admiration of their teammates for their abilities.
“Val is a really big impact hitter and she is really consistent and you can always trust her to put the ball down,” said Robinson. “It is important to have people like Barb on the right side so they can put their trust in us to put it away when Val is struggling.”
The three main outside hitters have averaged a hitting percentage of 21.4 through 15 games. Robinson, who has the highest hitting percentage at 24.9, also has the smallest sample size, since she has played six fewer matches than the juniors.
With up and down performances, Robinson’s mindset revolves around moving on from the mistakes and focusing on future matches.
“[I stay] focused trying to go from play to play not focusing on like past mistakes,” Robinson said. “Volleyball is just a game full of mistakes.”
Valerian utilizes the personalities and abilities of the other two outside hitters to be successful as a unit and a team.
“My mentality is just basically I am going to do the best I can for my team,” Valerian said. “We each bring out the best in one another and knowing how we can improve. One of our main priorities right now is trying to mix the shots and what shot to at the right moment. Each outside hitter is really different and that’s what kind of makes our team whole.”
UP NEXT: North Texas volleyball will continue play against Charlotte (11-10, 1-4 C-USA) on Oct. 18 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and follow it with a matchup at Marshall (12-6, 3-2 C-USA) on Oct. 20.
Featured Image: Sophomore outside hitter Rhett Robinson spikes the ball during the game against Southern Mississippi on Oct. 13, 2019. Image by Isabel Anes