UNC volleyball opens ACC play with two sweeps
Going into its first two conference games on Friday and Sunday, the North Carolina women’s volleyball team wanted to make sure it got off to a good start.
And for the Tar Heels, the first weekend of ACC play couldn’t have gone any better.
UNC easily beat Maryland on Friday and Boston College on Sunday, winning both on the road without losing a set in either match.
“It was awesome to win our first ACC matches in three (sets),” junior middle blocker Tia Gaffen said.
“We stayed focused and took care of business. And it’s nice to pick up wins on the road because those matches are harder.”
But the second win came easier than the first. The Terrapins didn’t put up much of a fight, never leading the Tar Heels in the first or third sets.
Maryland led for much of the second set, but after trailing 17-16, North Carolina closed the set on a 9-5 run to win it 25-22.
Freshman middle blocker Cameron Van Noy got her first career start against Maryland. During the game, Van Noy recorded seven kills and just one error on an excellent .500 hitting percentage.
Van Noy stressed that although her first start was exciting, the win was a team effort.
“I was just glad to be able to contribute,” Van Noy said. “We played really well on offense, got a lot of good blocks, and kept a lot of balls in play. We were very well prepared.”
Gaffen said the team did an especially good job setting.
“Our setters were reading the ball well and making perfect passes,” Gaffen said. “It makes everyone’s jobs easier when you’re making good passes and setting up the offense.”
Against Maryland, senior libero Kaylie Gibson anchored the UNC defense as usual with 16 digs, and junior outside hitter Emily McGee and redshirt freshman opposite side hitter Chaniel Nelson paced the Tar Heels offensively.
McGee led the team with 13 kills on a .370 hitting percentage, and she also had 10 digs for a double-double. Nelson added 11 kills on a .364 hitting percentage.
But the two struggled in Sunday’s match against Boston College, even though the Tar Heels notched a fairly routine, straight-sets win.
North Carolina never gave up the lead to the Eagles after the match was tied at 15-15 in the first set, 1-1 in the second and 9-9 in the third, despite sloppy performances from McGee and Nelson.
McGee had just eight kills on 24 attempts and made three errors for a .208 hitting percentage.
Nelson only had one kill and one error on seven attempts, giving her a hitting percentage of .000.
North Carolina had to turn to other players to pick up the slack. No one player dominated, but Gaffen played a good all-around match with nine kills on a .538 hitting percentage to go along with three digs and two blocks.
Van Noy also started again against the Eagles, but she didn’t have as much of an impact as she did against the Terrapins. She finished the match with four kills.
Van Noy said that the Tar Heels’ first ACC weekend showed that the team is gelling well.
“We’re really bonding and getting along great,” Van Noy said. “Our chemistry is really good on and off the court.”
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