UNC volleyball records a pair of wins, including one on senior night, to close out the home season

The North Carolina volleyball team had never lost consecutive matches this season until last weekend’s two defeats at the hands of conference foes Miami and Florida State.

And the Tar Heels wanted to make sure the streak ended there.

UNC (21-7, 13-4 ACC) defeated Georgia Tech (15-13, 8-9) 3-1 on Friday and then came back Saturday to handle Clemson (18-10, 10-7) 3-0.

After a tough weekend in the Sunshine State, UNC was happy to return to Chapel Hill and get a pair of significant ACC wins.

“Every win is important at this point of the season. At the end of the year, you want to build some momentum,” coach Joe Sagula said. “The road losses were so much of a thing of the past.”

On Friday night, UNC took advantage of a fast start to win the first set 25-13, but the next three were each decided by five points or fewer.

One of North Carolina’s main goals was to contain Georgia Tech rightside hitter Monique Mead, who came in leading the ACC in both kills and points. For the most part, UNC did just that. Mead had 15 kills, but only a .065 hitting percentage.

“You have to respect a great player like Monique Mead. You know she’s gonna get her kills,” Sagula said. “You have to make sure that if you do your job against her, then you don’t let somebody else go off and have a great night.”

The Tar Heels were successful in that respect, holding Georgia Tech to a .113 hitting percentage. A main reason for North Carolina’s success was the play of freshmen middle blocker Cameron Van Noy and opposite hitter Chaniel Nelson.

“I think we did a pretty good job (containing Mead),” Van Noy said, who had a season-high 12 blocks. “I think we did a pretty good job overall in terms of blocking in general.”

That perhaps was the understatement of the night. North Carolina’s 19 blocks marked the team’s highest output of the season and constantly deterred the Yellow Jacket attack.

Saturday night’s contest against Clemson was a bit more emotional. The match was the last at home for the UNC seniors, and they were honored in a pregame ceremony. There were a few tears while the National Anthem played, but once the match started, it was business as usual for the Tar Heels.

UNC was paced by junior outside hitter Emily McGee’s 11 kills and senior setter Erica Behm’s 32 assists in the three-set sweep.

Though UNC tallied only three team blocks — almost a complete antithesis of Friday night’s match — Sagula wasn’t concerned. He said the team blocked well, but most of them were the type that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.

“We created a presence at the net, and that was the most important thing,” Sagula said.

The Tar Heels — still third in the ACC behind FSU and Miami — were reflective on senior night, but more importantly happy to bounce back with two conference wins.

“We create such a family atmosphere. We have a lot of great chemistry on our team,” Behm said. “(To get the win on senior night) is like icing on the cake.”

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