Volleyball shocks Western Kentucky to grab control of C-USA

Volleyball shocks Western Kentucky to grab control of C-USA

Volleyball shocks Western Kentucky to grab control of C-USA
November 09
21:57 2017

Western Kentucky University has made the NCAA Tournament nine times in the last 12 seasons. North Texas has made the NCAA Tournament just once in school history (1995) and was swept in the first round.

The prestige of the two volleyball programs was worlds apart from each other. But none of that mattered Friday night in Denton.

North Texas defeated Western Kentucky in a thrilling five-set match 15-25, 25-21, 25-19, 19-25, 15-13.

“My legs were shaking since [it was 10-10 in the fifth],” senior middle blocker Amanda Chamberlain said. “We just had to really focus on leveling our emotions and being calm and worry about our side of the net.”

Western Kentucky and North Texas had been on a collision course from the early stages of conference play. WKU almost literally walked through its conference opponents, losing only three sets in 13 conference matches. Meanwhile, North Texas was on a 12 match win-streak of its own.

The Mean Green snapped a 38-match conference win streak by the Lady Toppers, handing WKU just its fourth conference loss since 2011. The match peaked at nearly 2,000 views on Facebook Live.

“It’s almost unexplainable,” senior setter Karley York said. “First of all, our gym has never been that loud. What we said is we worked all summer and all fall for this moment, and we wanted to take advantage of it.”

The team certainly took advantage of it tonight. Western Kentucky opted not to double up on Chamberlain and the North Texas middle blockers. and Chamberlain took advantage, finishing with 14 kills and a .367 attack percentage.

Senior middle blocker Holly Milam had 12 kills of her own and was her usual versatile self as she played on the outsides as well. York amassed 55 assists and two aces in the win.

With it being senior night against a tough opponent like the Lady Toppers, head coach Andrew Palileo opted to go with more experience on the court. That’s where junior middle blocker Jordyn Williams came in. She had eight kills with a team-high .467 attack percentage and well as a team-leading six block assists.

“Everyday in practice we work on bringing her in and putting Holly on the outside like that,” Palileo said. “Jo did a good job of coming in and providing energy and a different look for our offense.”

Going against a team with three returning All-Americans, the Mean Green defense stepped up, allowing Western Kentucky to have an attack percentage over .300 in only two of five sets.

The Mean Green offense was led by senior right side hitter Alexis Wright, who totaled 18 kills on a .361 attack percentage and was huge in closing out the match. Wright won two straight points in the fifth set to put the Mean Green up 13-11.

“I just wanted to play the best I could and do my job for my teammates,” Wright said. “Western’s outsides are two of the best outsides in the conference, so I was just trying to compete with the person across the net from me.”

The emotions were running high for both teams as coaches argued for calls and boos rained down occasionally during the night. Both fanbases were on their feet for the entirety of the fifth set.

“This is a crazy environment,” Palileo said. “This is an environment we wanted to be in, and the girls did a great job of handling the moment.”

The job for North Texas is not done yet, though. The Mean Green will play Middle Tennessee State University Saturday at home with a chance to secure the first regular season conference championship in school history and the No. 1 seed in the C-USA tournament.

“I think the biggest thing is we know it’s not over,” York said. “We know this was our biggest obstacle to get where we want to go, but Middle Tennessee is our last block in the road.”

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men’s basketball.

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