Henderson made nine of her 20 kills in the first set before the defense stepped up, holding her to two kills in the second set, five in the third and four in the fourth.
The team’s defense against Tulsa was not only a strength noted by Sagula, it was also a consistent force throughout the weekend.
“We’ve been practicing (blocking) a lot,” Nelson said. “We have goals even for each set on how many blocks we’d like to have, maybe three or four, and we’ve just done a lot better with that. Defense wise, I feel like our communication is getting a lot better. Our chemistry’s getting a lot better.”
The blocking goals were reflected almost perfectly in the weekend’s games, when the team posted eight blocks against Tulsa and Miami (Ohio), and nine against St. Louis.
“I think defense is integral, you have to be able to transition and get a good hit,” Gaffen said. “Defense is really important — picking up the ball, stopping the other team from getting points and being able to capitalize on their digs.”
It was not just the ability to do these things that strengthened UNC this weekend, but a continued effort to do them.
“I think we were really scrappy this weekend,” Gaffen said. “We didn’t quit on anything. You saw people diving for balls in bleachers. We just didn’t let anything drop this weekend which was awesome.”
The team talked about having focus and a purpose after Friday night’s loss, and Nelson marked a career-high 16 kills during Saturday afternoon’s match against Miami (Ohio).
“We talked a lot about where we’re going to position as a team because we do need to keep improving our blocking,” Sagula said. “We’re working on it every day and we’re going to keep getting better and better.”
After having eight points on blocking in the first two matches, UNC finished the weekend against St. Louis with nine on the match, a number close to the team’s specific goal.
“It’s kind of funny, because our goal this week as a team was to average 3.3 blocks per set, so we got very close” Sagula said. “So if we can do that we’re going to be in good shape. If we can do that, then we will continually be a tough team to beat.”
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