The North Carolina volleyball team doesn't have the one star player that strikes terror in its opponent.
Rather, the Tar Heels rely on strong team play and consistent hitting from everyone.
UNC lost six players from last year. Three of those players were starters who helped carry North Carolina to an ACC championship.
But this year's Tar Heels haven't let their teammates' departure get them down. They're 16-3 and undefeated in ACC play.
"It's a concern all the time when you're filling three spaces," UNC coach Joe Sagula said. "To get to where we are, we had a lot of different people step up on different days. We've found many different ways to win."
North Carolina beat Maryland last weekend with precise passing and serving, and it toppled Virginia with great play from its outside hitters.
The Tar Heels fought by Georgia Tech in five games on Sept. 22 behind solid play from their middle hitters.
But the consistent play from North Carolina's experienced defense has been the biggest factor in the team's success.
Not every player expected such early progress with the young group, especially with the departure of two starting middle hitters.
But win or lose, they're gaining confidence with every bump, set and spike.
"My expectations were definitely not as high as we've been doing," outside hitter Casey Simpson said. "It's surprising that we're (16-3). I never thought we'd be looking at an ACC championship."
Then there are those who knew the team had the potential, and it was just a matter of time before it all showed.
"If we're doing the things that I think we can do, I think we can compete with anybody," Sagula said.
The Tar Heels are just beginning to put things together, Sagula said. They've recently found their starting lineup and now know what players work best in certain situations.
But the Tar Heels have yet to play a match in which everything clicked.
"It's been kind of scary because we haven't even played well yet," sophomore setter Eve Rackham said. "I'm excited to see what we look like when we start playing well."
UNC is going to have to start hitting on all cylinders soon. It's heading into the weekend with matches against Wake Forest and Duke, two teams that always play the Tar Heels well.
Several players said the team can't afford to let its opponents pull ahead early, a mistake UNC has made often.
"I think we're going to have to pick it up now because people are going to be gunning for us," senior defensive specialist Lisa Fryer said.
UNC will have an opportunity to demonstrate its new cohesiveness during Friday's match against Wake Forest.
They'll be playing in front of an energetic crowd that's getting ready for Midnight Madness in Carmichael Auditorium.
"I'm hoping we'll play well in front of a good crowd," Sagula said. "We hope to set an attendance record. We're very proud of what these girls have accomplished."
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