UNC volleyball returns from Virginia with one win, one loss

The North Carolina volleyball team lost to Virginia Tech 3-1 Friday night in a match coach Joe Sagula believes was far from his team’s standard level of play.

“We went in not as energized and kind of flat,” he said. “The bottom line was that we scored the first (few) points of the game, then kind of relaxed a little bit, but then Virginia Tech was ready to start playing. ”

The Tar Heels (22-8, 14-5 ACC) came back in the second set and won 18-25, but heading into the third set, Virginia Tech’s strong defense was a force against UNC’s scoring.

“We were struggling on finding ways to score, that’s really what it came down to,” Sagula said. “Our serving was also not as tough as it normally is … Virginia Tech was able to run their offense really well, respectively.”

After the loss in Blacksburg, the Tar Heels had a team meeting Saturday morning and both coaches and players agreed that Friday’s performance was unlike the rest of the 2011 season.

“(I) thought the feeling that we played with and where we played in (the Virginia Tech game) was not characteristic of us this year,” Sagula said.

That refocusing helped the Tar Heels post a 3-1 win Saturday against the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, even against difficult odds on the court.

“There were things that we just needed to get through to play better against Virginia and I think the thing is that we came back committed and a lot more focused,” Sagula said.

“At the end of the first set, we were out of substitutions and we went through four rotations without any front row players in the game,” he said. “That was a remarkable way to win.”

During the first set, senior setter Erica Behm played front row with defensive players senior Aleksandra Georgieva and freshman Chaney LaReau.

“Since they both were former attackers, we went out with a lot of confidence that we were going to be able to get the job done with them in there,” Behm said.

“It definitely jumbled things up, especially for server purposes, when trying to decide where to attack from, but we just tried to keep everyone calm in the situation.”

The Tar Heels won the second set over Virginia as well, but then fell 19-25 in the third. In the fourth set, the Cavaliers scored the first four points, but the Tar Heels answered with five.

The rest of the set was close until North Carolina pulled away at the end of the set to a 24-20 lead. Emily McGee’s game-high seventeenth match kill secured the UNC win.

For junior Heather Henry, the win against Virginia helped the outlook for the remainder of the season, including a match Wednesday at N.C. State.

“I think we have a fighting chance of getting into the NCAA tournament,” Henry said. “Winning against Virginia proves that we’re going to come up strong against N.C. State and that will put us in a good position for the postseason.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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