Despite prevailing over Texas-San Antonio (15-12, 8-6 Conference USA) in the season finale, North Texas volleyball (16-11, 10-4 Conference USA) didn’t repeat the same performance and made a first-round exit in the Conference USA Tournament after losing in four sets in Houston. The Roadrunners won set one, two and four by 25-23,25-29, and 26-24. North Texas won set three by 34-32.
North Texas starters for this match were sophomore outside hitter Rhett Robinson, junior middle blocker Miranda Youmans, freshman outside hitter Avery Mccrillis, junior outside hitter Valerie Valerian, freshman middle blocker Alysha Johnson, sophomore defense specialist Kasey Bortnem, and freshman libero Aleeyah Galdeira. Junior outside hitter Barbara Teakell was able to play in the match after sitting out last week.
“You know I thought we came out a little slow,” head coach Andrew Palileo said.”Texas-San Antonio did a really good job coming out with a lot more intense.”
Valerian had 23 kills with a percentage of 25, 20 digs and an ace to give her a double-double. Teakell accumulated 11 kills, 12 digs, and two aces getting a double-double in the match. Senior defense specialist Olivia Petnicki had the highest hitting percentage on the with 50 with a kill, 12 digs and three assists. Johnson had two kills with a hitting percentage of 33.3.
Bortnem accumulated two kills with a hitting percentage of 25, 11 digs, and 41 assists giving her a double-double for the match probably her first of her career and a career-high on assists. McCrillis tallied two aces, a kill, six digs, and four blocks. Robinson had eight blocks, six digs, seven kills and an assist. Youmans had seven kills and seven blocks. Galdeira received 20 digs and four assists in the match.
“Both teams did a great job in that [third] set,” Palileo said. “You know a lot of players made some great plays on both sides of the net.”
North Texas had fewer kills than the Roadrunners with 60 versus 54. Texas-San Antonio had more assist than North Texas with 60 assists compared to 51 assists. The Mean Green had fewer digs than the Roadrunners (94-88). The Mean Green had more blocks than Texas-San Antonio with 14 blocks to 11 blocks.
“Kasey did a great job,” Palileo said.”We are excited for her [Bortnem] and happy for her. I know her teammates are really just excited for her.”
For the Roadrunners, senior outside hitter Brianna Mcculloch had 15 kills with a hitting percentage of 22.5 and five digs. Sophomore outside hitter Hannah Lopez had 13 kills and 23 digs helping her receive a double-double. Freshman setter Courtney Walters accumulated 47 assists and 4 digs. Senior defense specialist Emily Ramirez received 24 digs and three assists.
“[Valerian] was the only one that was consistent,” Palileo said. “We needed more than Val obviously especially in this game.”
Four of the North Texas volleyball players ended up receiving all-conference honors. Valerian and Robinson both made the first-team all-conference. Junior setter Kaleigh Skopal was put on the second-team all-conference. Johnson got placed on the freshman all-conference team.
“We are going to have some players coming in,” Palileo said. “We don’t lose anybody and return everybody back except a senior that didn’t play and a senior [defense specialist].”
UP NEXT: North Texas hits the road to take on Southern Methodist on Friday, Nov. 29 in Dallas.
Featured Image: Freshman outside hitter Avery McCrillis digs a serve during the game against the Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 16, 2019. Image by Isabel Anes