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UNT extends historic season with win in National Invitational Volleyball Championship

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas wasn't where it hoped it would be for its first match of the postseason Thursday night.

That didn't prevent the Mean Green from keeping one of the best seasons in program history alive with a 25-17, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16 win over Oral Roberts in the opening round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship at the Mean Green Volleyball Center.

UNT just missed out on playing in the NCAA tournament when it fell to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA tournament final and was one of the top teams passed over for an at-large berth.

The Mean Green regrouped from that disappointment and picked up the first postseason win in program history in their second appearance. UNT fell to USC in the 1995 NCAA tournament.

The Mean Green (29-3) advanced to face TCU in the second round of the 32-team event at 7 p.m. Friday back on their home court.

"We are happy with the win and being able to continue," UNT outside hitter Valerie Valerian said. "We have a tough match [Friday] and have some things we can work on before TCU."

TCU advanced earlier in the day by sweeping Wyoming.

UNT coach Andrew Palileo said he felt like the Mean Green came out a little flat against Oral Roberts. The Mean Green eventually picked up steam and won the first two sets. The Golden Eagles (15-15) came back to win the third set before UNT closed out the match on a Barbara Teakell kill.

"It's great to play at home," Palileo said. "That's why we put a bid in. I thought we could host it. Anytime we play in front of our fans, we get energy from them."

Valerian fed off that energy on her way to finishing with 16 kills, a total that tied with middle blocker Holly Milam for the team high. Karley York handed out 45 assists.

"I'm so happy that all of our games will be at home as long as we keep on winning, and we plan on continuing to win," Valerian said. "It's such an amazing experience to be back on our home court again."

The win was another milestone for the Mean Green, who won the Conference USA regular-season title on that same court on the final week of the season.

UNT will look to keep its season rolling against TCU, which improved to 13-16 with its win over Wyoming.

The Mean Green say they will be better prepared for that match after shaking off some rust and a little disappointment in their win over Oral Roberts after not receiving an NCAA bid.

"There are things we could have done better," Milam said. "We are going to take that game, be happy with the win and be ready to play."

UNT is in uncharted territory for as long as it can keep its season alive.

"It's nice to keep the season going," Milam said. "Our goal now is 30 wins."

UNT closed in on that goal with its win over Oral Roberts. What might have been even more important is that the Mean Green continued to build on a historic season that could set the program up for success down the line.

"Hopefully this will do a lot with excitement and bringing in more fans," Palileo said. "It should especially help with recruiting."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.