UNC volleyball splits weekend matches against Florida State, Miami

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Coming into Friday’s match, the North Carolina volleyball team was a perfect 5-0 in the conference.

But tied with the Tar Heels as the No. 1 team in the ACC was their next opponent, Florida State.

The Tar Heels fell to the Seminoles 3-1, earning their first conference loss Friday at Carmichael Arena. On Sunday, North Carolina rebounded with a 3-2 win against Miami.

Both the Tar Heels and the Seminoles entered Friday’s game undefeated in the ACC, and both saw the contest as an opportunity to seize control of the tightly contested conference.

After UNC jumped out to a quick lead and put away Florida State 25-20 in the first set, it looked like the Tar Heels might do just that.

In the second set, however, the Seminoles used UNC’s formula — a fast start and staving off all comeback attempts — to notch their own 25-20 win.

When FSU gained leads in both the third and fourth sets, it continued to kill any momentum gained by the home team en route to 25-19 and 25-18 victories, respectively, and a 3-1 match win.

“We tried to keep it really simple,” coach Joe Sagula said. “(But) after a while (FSU’s) block just became a challenge for us.”

FSU had 20 blocks to UNC’s 7, most of which were emotionally deflating, momentum-killing moves that wore down the Tar Heels just as they started to mount a comeback.

“I thought we would have some good runs as well. And we did, but (FSU) kept that cushion, that comfort cushion,” Sagula said.

But even after a draining defeat, Sagula was optimistic about the team’s ability to rebound.

“You just don’t dwell on this … we can’t think about Florida State. It’s over,” Sagula said.

Redshirt freshman Chaniel Nelson, who had eight kills against the Seminoles, took what she learned in the loss to prepare for the matchup against Miami.

And the Tar Heels’ concentration paid off.

The team came out fired-up on Sunday against the Hurricanes, taking the first two sets 31-29 and 25-23, respectively. The close scores were not particularly indicative of the match, as UNC was in firm control of both sets. Unforced errors by North Carolina helped Miami to stay close, but the Tar Heels eventually prevailed.

The next two sets, however, were hotly contested — featuring a combined 25 ties and 13 lead changes. Miami ultimately prevailed in both—25-19 and 27-25.

With Miami and UNC tied 2-2 and just a decisive fifth set remaining, the atmosphere in Carmichael Arena was electric.

The conclusive fifth set was just as close as the previous two, and the crowd exploded with every UNC point. After Miami cut an 11-7 Tar Heel lead to 11-9, Sagula called a time out.

UNC came out of the break determined to put the match away. Junior outside hitter Emily McGee’s ace put UNC ahead 13-9, followed by a powerful kill by Nelson to bring up match point.

Following a brief Miami spurt that made the score 14-11, sophomore outside hitter Kayla Berringer’s kill won the match for UNC.

“We just have to do what we practice,” junior setter Cora Harms said. “We have to stay disciplined … and kind of just maintain that focus together.”

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