Third seeded North Texas wins tight four sets, advances to semi-finals over Middle Tennessee

From the Sun Belt Conference

In the second match of the Sun Belt Volleyball Championships, third-seeded North Texas hung on to defeat sixth-seeded Middle Tennessee, 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22) on Thursday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Mean Green took a pair of tight sets in the third and fourth after dropping a close second frame. SBC Freshman of the Year Carnae Dillard paced NT with a match-high 22 kills. Allen May set up the offense with 47 assists and Shelby Tamura anchored the defense with 17 digs.

MT was led by Brandi Waller's 17 kills and Tyler Richardson's 10 spikes and .368 hitting percentage. Shelby Anderton registered a match-best 51 assists, while Bri McCombs compiled 16 digs.

The Mean Green leaped out to an early 9-6 lead in the opening frame and extended it to 14-6 after a 5-0 spurt with block and two kills by Courtney Windham. The Blue Raiders still trailed 20-14 when they went on a 5-1 run to get back in it at 21-19. MT got as close as 22-21 when NT answered by taking final three points with kills from May Allen and Karissa Flack to close it out, 25-21.

After dropping the first point in the second frame, the Mean Green won seven in a row to start ahead, 7-1. MT trailed 8-2 when it clawed back with a 4-0 dash to cut the deficit to 8-6. NT responded by using a 5-1 run to extend its lead back up to 15-9. MT would not go away and cut the lead down to just 17-16 after a 6-1 run of its own. Down 22-20, the Blue Raiders kept pushing and tied it, 22-22 after a couple NT miscues. The Mean Green took the next two points, and then closed it on a kill by Dillard to win 25-23.

Another tight third game started even at 9-9 when MT jumped ahead 12-9 after a kill on the right by Katie Bange. With Monet Marshall serving, the Blue Raiders extended the lead to 15-10 and kept it at 17-12. The Mean Green came back after MT miscues to cut the lead to 17-15. Still behind 21-19, NT continued to battle and tied it, 21-21. When MT went back up 23-21, a Windham block and a Dillard kill tied it, 23-23. The Blue Raiders stayed strong and took the final two points, 25-23, on a kill by Waller and block assist by Waller and Tyler Richardson.

The Blue Raiders kept the momentum going early in the fourth and jumped ahead, 10-6. Trailing 12-9, NT used a 5-0 run to leap in front, 14-12. After a timeout, MT came out and grabbed the next three points to recapture the lead, 15-14. The teams went point-for-point and were even at 21-21. A kill by NT's Eboni Godfrey forced MT to call timeout at 23-21. The Mean Green capped off the win, 25-22 on an attack error.

The winner of the tournament earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.