North Texas had lost three straight heading into Sunday’s volleyball match against Rice, but the Mean Green awoke offensively behind four individual double-digit kill efforts and knocked off the Owls in Houston in four sets, winning 25-22, 23-25, 28-26, 25-18.
Carnae Dillard notched her 14th double-double of the season with 21 kills and 20 digs for UNT, while Hanna Forst (16), senior Karissa Flack (14) and senior captain Courtney Windham (11) each added double-digit kill totals. Senior libero Shelby Tamura added a season-high 25 digs.
“We got a much-needed win following our off day [Friday] to get us back on our feet,” head coach Andrew Palileo said. “It was a wonderful team effort, with contributions from everyone, and we beat a really good team regardless of their record. Rice is a perennial contender in this league and defends their home court well.”
The teams traded runs in the first two sets as UNT hit .350 to easily take the first set, while the Owls turned up the defense to hold North Texas to a mere .171 attack percentage in the second set to even the match.
The third set went into extra points as the Mean Green (13-12, 5-4 Conference USA) relinquished a 24-22 advantage late, but it regrouped and won the set 28-26 on back-to-back kills by Dillard and Forst.
The Mean Green wrapped up the match comfortably in the fourth set to move back above .500 in both Conference USA play (5-4) and the season (13-12).
UNT returns home to play Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. Friday.
UAB 2, UNT 1
UAB was able to keep the Mean Green off balance and secured a 2-1 win Sunday in Birmingham, Ala., to set up a wild final day of Conference USA regular-season action on Thursday.
UNT’s Karla Pineda tied the game at 1-1 in the 67th minute, but UAB’s Johanna Liney had the go-ahead goal just five minutes later for the Blazers (11-5-2, 4-3-2 C-USA). The loss ends the Mean Green’s four-game winning streak.
With UT-San Antonio (14 points) and Rice (13 points, tiebreaker over UNT) within striking distance of the Mean Green’s 16 points, Thursday’s regular-season finale at home against UTEP (17 points) will have implications for next month’s C-USA tournament in Houston.
The top three teams in each division receive a bye into the quarterfinals, and a win over the Miners on Thursday would give UNT (11-6-1, 5-3-1) the No. 2 seed. A tie or a loss would leave the Mean Green vulnerable for the Roadrunners or Owls to overtake the Mean Green for the third and final bye.
UNT plays visiting UTEP at 1 p.m. Thursday.