North Texas will be right back where it started a late-season road trip this afternoon in the opening round of the Conference USA volleyball tournament at Middle Tennessee.
UNT, the No. 5 seed in the event, will face Florida Atlantic in an opening-round match at 2 p.m.
The Owls barely squeezed into the tournament as the No. 12 seed and did so largely because they were able to sneak past the Mean Green on Friday in a five-set marathon in Boca Raton, Fla.
That loss and a three-set setback at Florida International in UNT’s regular-season finale ended the Mean Green’s hopes of earning a first-round bye in the conference tournament. That slide also left the Mean Green with a long road to travel if it wants to win the league title and grab a berth in the NCAA tournament.
UNT would have to win four matches in four days to capture the C-USA title.
“We need to pick up our energy and intensity, and I believe we will do that,” UNT head coach Andrew Palileo said following UNT’s loss to FIU. “I will address that in the coming days as we prepare for our first Conference USA tournament.”
UNT had won four straight matches before dropping its last two of the regular season. The Mean Green knocked off Tulane during that run to clinch a spot in the conference tournament. Tulane is the No. 2 seed in the tournament, while Texas-San Antonio is the top seed.
The Mean Green will face No. 4 seed Marshall on Friday if it wins today.
UNT will turn to a trio of players who were honored on the All-C-USA team as it looks to make a tournament run this week. Sophomore outside hitter Carnae Dillard was a first-team all-conference selection after leading the Mean Green in kills with 441 and ranking second in digs with 343.
Middle blocker Karissa Flack was a second-team pick, while setter Amy Henard was a member of the all-freshman team.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.