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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Enters Tourney Seeking Revenge


The name doesn't merely appear on the North Carolina volleyball team's schedule - it flashes brightly.

No, the team isn't comprised of smokers. But the Tar Heels were swept by Wake Forest this season.

What better time and place to avenge a pair of loses than the ACC tournament, in the Demon Deacons' home gym?

"I would feel very confident and look forward to that opportunity to play Wake Forest in their gym in the ACC tournament," UNC coach Joe Sagula said. "I think this team will take that challenge and go with it."

To have that opportunity to play Wake in the second round, No. 2 seed-UNC must beat the winner of the Thursday night Clemson-Maryland match.

The Tar Heels play Friday afternoon at 4:30 at Reynolds Gym.

"We're not even thinking about playing No. 1 Georgia Tech or Wake Forest right now," junior Krista Buchholz said.

Given the collective performance of North Carolina in November, UNC shouldn't take any win for granted.

The Tar Heels have dropped three of their last five matches, and their two wins came by a 3-2 margin.

But the team feels optimistic.

"I felt like we've played better in these last two games than we have the whole season," senior Casey Simpson said. "We can definitely do well in the tournament.

"We have a lot of people contributing right now. In every game, someone will step it up."

Simpson is a good bet.

Simpson, an outside hitter, is averaging 3.98 kills per game. Simpson has already tallied 1,000 kills in her career and is 42 digs shy of reaching the 1,000 plateau in that category.

Alongside Simpson are fellow outside hitters Nicole Reis (4.57 kills per game) and Laura Greene (3.98), giving UNC a formidable front line.

Sagula said the team's strong outside hitters combined with its middle hitters allow the Tar Heels to get an edge on opponents.

"We try to get our middles going early and have them fall into a focus of having to concentrate on them," Sagula said. "Then we can try to go to the outside player and when the other team's tired, we can get an edge that way."

Another way that the Tar Heels can get an edge is through their transition game. Sagula said that aspect of the team's play is its most important.

"For us to win the tournament, we need to block well," Sagula said. "If we are touching a lot of balls and blocking well, then our offense just soars.

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"Our blocking allows our defense to stop opponents, and then our offense can work."

And if the offense works, the Tar Heels can be tough.

"I don't think Wake Forest can beat us three times," Simpson said. "It's impossible."

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