Fields leads third-set turning point for UNC volleyball's comeback win
The situation was the same for North Carolina’s volleyball team as it was on Friday night against N.C. State.
Going into yet another third set down 0-2, the Tar Heels knew that something had to change in their ACC home opener against Louisville (7-5, 1-1 ACC).
“We are learning more about ourselves,” head coach Joe Sagula said. “We are learning about what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we knew that we needed more people to step up on offense.”
The early shift in momentum of the third set went to North Carolina (4-6, 1-1 ACC) after Louisville junior setter Wilma Rivera slipped and fell, allowing the ball to fall for a UNC point.
After redshirt junior Taylor Leath earned her seventh kill of the match to tie the score at 4-4, redshirt sophomore Sydnye Fields substituted in and became North Carolina’s answer on offense.
The team felt her impact immediately. One point after entering, Fields recorded a kill off an assist from redshirt first-year Holly Carlton. After committing an attack error to give the Cardinals the 8-7 advantage, Fields tapped the ball over the net just out of reach of the Louisville defense to redeem herself with her second kill.
Midway through the third set, it was evident that the Tar Heels needed to capitalize on Louisville’s mistakes in order to force a fourth.
After a Louisville attack error, Fields rose to the challenge and slammed the ball over the net. Overcome with emotion, the middle hitter erupted into a loud shout after tying the score at 14-14.
Following a media timeout, Fields leapt up for another massive kill that turned the momentum in favor of the Tar Heels. Redshirt senior Taylor Fricano then posted a kill of her own to push the score to 17-14, which led to a huge block by Fricano and Fields that extended the lead to 18-14 and forced the scrambling Cardinals to call a timeout.
Louisville appeared to have successfully regrouped itself after the timeout by tallying a quick kill, but first-year Sehrena Hull responded with a kill in her first career start to put North Carolina back up by four.
After a service error by Fricano prompted the Tar Heels to call a timeout, the spotlight was back on Fields. Following the timeout, she tallied her fifth and final kill of the set to push the lead to 20-16.
North Carolina carried that momentum over into the match point, a double block by Fricano and Leath to give the Tar Heels the 25-18 win. Fields finished the third set with five kills on six attacks and one error.
UNC won the fourth set handily, 25-19. The fifth set was another comeback in itself as the Tar Heels were down 4-8, but came back to win 15-12. But without Fields' heroics, those extra sets and 3-2 comeback win may not have even happened.
“We are relentless in the fact that we can lose two sets and still come back to win,” Fields said. “We knew that we were capable.”