Sagula said it was about getting his team into a rhythm and controlling the tempo. He said that came from playing clean — avoiding errors, balancing the court through passes and pressuring the Chanticleers (28-5) with serves.
“Once we do that, we’re going to be a tough team because we have so many weapons,” Sagula said.
Redshirt junior Taylor Fricano, who tallied eight kills and eight blocks for the Tar Heels (29-3) Saturday, said the serving helped her succeed in stifling Coastal Carolina at the net.
“It gave me the opportunity to see the court better and put them in a tougher position,” she said. “So blocking-wise, I have to give it to my servers because that — if you see numbers that are good blocking, it’s definitely because of the serving.”
Sagula said Friday’s sweep of High Point in the first round showed the importance of passing and serving.
“If you don’t serve tough at this point, then every team is good enough to run their offense,” he said after the win.
UNC’s passing was off in the third set against the Panthers, forcing the ball to the left side of court. And while they combined for seven aces in the first two sets, the Tar Heels failed to tally an ace in the final set, which they narrowly won, 25-23.
“A lot of it is slowing it down,” redshirt sophomore Taylor Leath said. “Being in the tournament, you’re really excited, and sometimes your nerves get you going really, really fast. And a lot of us needed to just slow down.”
Sagula said aggressive serving and precise passing will determine the team’s success. UNC must focus on those techniques deeper in the tournament, especially in its Sweet-16 matchup against UCLA at 10:45 p.m. on Friday in Minneapolis.
Redshirt senior Hayley McCorkle said passing helps her team better connect.
“I think it all starts with the pass ...” she said. “I think it really does allow us to build momentum going through the set is knowing our passers have our back, we have our passers’ back, and we have our setters’ back ...
“It’s a wheel that’s turning. And I think that’s how we create that momentum to go into the next set.”