The Tar Heels challenged USC (3-0) early, splitting the first two sets and battling through the third. But the hosting Women of Troy asserted their home dominance in the final set, pummeling UNC 25-11.
“For our first match of the year, it was a really good match,” Sagula said. “We really kind of bombed out in that fourth set. We just couldn’t sustain that level.”
Against BYU (2-1), UNC claimed a tight first set before dropping the next two. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 22-16 advantage in the fourth set, but the Cougars roared back to close out the match.
“We have to be a lot more aggressive,” Sagula said. “Even when plays aren’t perfect, we can’t be conservative against good teams. It can only take you so far.”
The Tar Heels easily dispatched Chicago State (0-3) to notch their first win. But the inconsistency from the previous two matches showed Sagula what must change for his team to reach elite status.
“It stings a little bit, to be honest. You’d like to be on the other half with more wins, yes. But I think if we’re going to become the team we want, with high expectations and high goals, we’re not going to learn these things unless you play really good teams.” — Sagula on his team’s tough opening schedule.
Leigh Andrew was the lone bright spot for the Tar Heels, earning All-Tournament Team honors. The senior outside hitter led UNC with 31 kills over three games, including 18 kills against BYU. Sagula noted that Andrew is developing into a go-to player for the team.
Three numbers that matter
265: days between UNC’s 3-1 victory over USC in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and Friday’s rematch.
7: seasons since the Tar Heels lost each of their first two games.
3: losses during UNC’s entire 2014 regular season.
UNC will travel to Louisville to face Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Friday at 4:30 p.m.