"As poorly as we played yesterday and as well as we played today, I couldn’t ask for a better situation in terms of a first weekend to give us the tools and what we need to work with,” he said.
In the first set against Minnesota, the Golden Gophers won by a 25-16 margin. But after the opening frame, the Tar Heels battled back.
Minnesota took the second set, a contested, 26-24 affair. In the third set, Sagula's team broke free, taking a 30-28 victory and setting the stage for a potential comeback bid.
The Tar Heels led by a 19-14 margin and looked like they would take the set. Unfortunately for UNC, the Golden Gophers countered and took home the final set by a score of 25-23 to win the match.
"I could not be any more proud of how we played the second, third and fourth set tonight against Minnesota, the number four team in the country," Sagula said. "I'm encouraged by how we played."
One of the bright spots for North Carolina was first-year Destiny Cox, who led all hitters in kills in both games. She tallied 13 against Wisconsin and followed up with 22 against Minnesota.
"She’s a superb athlete, and she is just going to get better and better by gaining more experience,” Sagula said.
Hunter Atherton, a redshirt sophomore setter, put up 25 assists against Wisconsin and 44 against Minnesota, while junior Skylar Wine recorded 15 kills against the Golden Gophers. Sagula said that Wine's play will likely put her in the starting rotation come next game.
Sagula said the depth and versatility of his players will allow him to adjust the lineup based on the opponent. Therefore, changes will be made depending on the personnel the team faces.
Although the Tar Heels did not come out with victories this weekend, they got the experience of facing two ranked opponents and will benefit from the adversity moving forward.
Following this weekend's play, the Tar Heels return home to host the Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill beginning on Friday with a match against UNC-Greensboro. UNC faces Maryland Eastern Shore and Michigan State on Saturday in a doubleheader.
The three contests will prove vital in determining the trajectory of the season as North Carolina looks to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
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