Volleyball records seventh shutout with win over Eagles

Watching his team before Friday night’s 3-0 win against Boston College, North Carolina volleyball coach Joe Sagula wasn’t confident.

UNC had lost its focus in the previous night’s match against Maryland, he said, and, at times, it allowed the overmatched Terrapins to make late runs.

Now, preparing to face a Boston College team with just seven wins, he thought his players looked complacent.

“I wasn’t sure about (our mental readiness) watching them warm up,” Sagula said. “I told the team that this could be a really long night, because if we play like we warm up, we’re in trouble.”

Fortunately for the Tar Heels, pregame complacency made way for a focused attack that made quick work of the Eagles in three straight sets.

A new formation designed to produce more offense featuring three hitters up front proved effective for UNC.

As a result, Emily McGee, Kayla Berringer and Heather Henry all had big nights at the net, recording 12, nine and six kills, respectively.

The Tar Heel defense also performed well, combining for a total of 47 digs.

“We stayed disciplined on defense and focused on digging everything,” senior libero Kaylee Gibson said. “If we dig more, and get everything up on defense, we’ll get our offense going and give them confidence to play even harder.”

Still, it took the Tar Heels about half of a set to put the new offense to convincing use.

Boston College stayed within three points of UNC in the first set until the 13-11 mark, but the Tar Heels pulled away with a 12-5 run to take the set, 25-16. Six kills from McGee and three service errors combined to make life difficult for the Eagles.

Boston College threatened again in the second set as it took an early lead against the Tar Heels. The Eagles would not relinquish their advantage for good until Tia Gaffen and Berringer blocked a swing from Mollie Kolosky to put UNC up 12-11.

With the score at 15-13, a UNC kill drew Boston College coach Chris Campbell off the bench, protesting that Tar Heel attackers had hit the ball on the Eagles’ side of the net. On the previous point, it seemed Campbell also disagreed with what he perceived to be a no-call on a carry by UNC’s Cora Harms. The officials ultimately issued Campbell a yellow card.

UNC kept the Eagles off-guard with a number of short tip-overs, and took the second set with another big run, again by a score of 25-16.

“That’s something we’ve been working on a lot at practice, just giving teams different things to look at,” Gaffen said. “If you throw in the tip, it just keeps them on their toes.”

The third set, during which Boston College had almost as many errors as kills, involved still more tip-over trickery from the Tar Heels, who finished the match in a 25-11 display of dominance.

Having defeated Maryland on Thursday night, the Tar Heels entered the weekend with back-to-back victories in straight sets.

As a result, Sagula decided to give his team a relaxing reward.

“We told them that they could have off on Sunday if they played strong, and they did.” Sagula said. “They’ve earned it. The key thing is that we feel good about our game and that we’re rested and healthy going into next week, when we’ll hopefully play our best matches.”

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