UNC libero Kaylie Gibson leaves big impact

She wears a different color jersey than the rest of her teammates on the North Carolina women’s volleyball team, and she can often be found diving all over the court, somersaulting after making a dig or even running into the stands to save a ball.

That’s what makes Kaylie Gibson stand out.

At 5-foot-3, the senior libero might be one of the smallest players for the Tar Heels, but her impact is anything but tiny.

Friday against Virginia she had 21 digs — seven in each set — and helped North Carolina to a three-set sweep. Before UNC’s games against Virginia Tech and Virginia, Gibson’s 1,754 digs ranked second all-time in UNC history.

And despite not receiving as much recognition as her frontline teammates do for their powerful kills and creative tips, she has no complaints. Gibson’s main focus is doing anything she can to help the team succeed ­— regardless of whether she receives any commendation.

“I really enjoy what I do,” she said. “The crowd loves the big hits — and they get in to the digs and everything — but I feel great just being able to (contribute with defense) for my team. It’s a great feeling.”

Coach Joe Sagula knows how essential Gibson is to the team. He described her defense as “phenomenal” against the Cavaliers and credited her back-row play as one of the reasons UNC won the game.

In August, Gibson was one of 30 candidates selected for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award for volleyball. On Wednesday, Gibson was named one of 10 finalists.

“I’m really honored. I wasn’t expecting (to be named a finalist) at all,” Gibson said. “I was really happy to be top 30 and then being in the top 10 — I’m just really honored (and) grateful.”

The award — given exclusively to NCAA Division I senior student athletes — is based on four criteria: classroom, community, character and competition.

Outside of volleyball, Gibson tutors second graders, commits to community service projects with the volleyball team and works hard in the classroom.

Perhaps, then, there are few more-qualified Tar Heels to assess the team’s prospects this season.

As UNC continues the grind through its ACC schedule, Gibson is optimistic about its potential.

“I think we have a lot of potential. We’re doing really well and we’re taking each match at a time,” Gibson said. “We’re really excited to play Duke next week.”

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