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The Daily Tar Heel

Volleyball Determined to Defend ACC Title

In its 2001 campaign, North Carolina's women's volleyball team seems ready to provide yet another example.

One would think a squad that graduated three after winning the ACC title and making the NCAA tournament last year might struggle. But this year's squad insists that's far from the case.

Third-year starter Eve Rackham sees the lack of upperclassmen not as a problem but as a potential benefit.

"We definitely have a lot of freshmen, but we return five starters, so I don't think we're necessarily worried about experience," Rackham said.

Without question, the transition period of finding three new starters will be softened by the fact that UNC already possesses some of the ACC's best talent.

At the outside hitter position, the team will rely on juniors Laura Greene, a second-team All-ACC performer last season, and Malaika Underwood. Sophomore Nicole Reis, the MVP of last year's ACC tournament, and freshman Molly Pyles will also play on the outside.

"I'm looking for them to take a lot of swings, and I'm really expecting a lot," UNC coach Joe Sagula said.

In the middle, the Tar Heels need the continued solid play of senior Krista Buchholz and junior Holly Strauss, who finished first and fourth in the ACC in blocks last year.

Rackham lends stability to the setter spot, as she led the ACC in assists last season and has played in 63 out of UNC's 68 matches during her career.

The defensive specialist position is where the Tar Heels have been affected the most by graduation, losing Liz Feldman and Lisa Fryer. But the team has three players who could step in, as senior Melissa Higgins and freshmen Jamie Mitchell and Heather Catlin will all play.

UNC faces a challenging nonconference schedule and hopes it will prepare the Tar Heels for ACC play, especially against Georgia Tech, the lone team ranked ahead of the Tar Heels in a preseason ACC coaches' poll.

"We can definitely rival (Georgia Tech)," Greene said. "We were the top two teams, and I expect it to be the same way."

Volleyball Schedule

Fri., Aug. 31 Loyola-Md.* 5 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 1 Villanova* 10 a.m.

at Penn State* 3 p.m.

Tue., Sept 4 at Davidson 7 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 8 UC-Santa Barbara** 10 a.m.

Creighton** 5 p.m.

Sun., Sept. 9 at Santa Clara** 1:30 p.m.

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Fri., Sept. 14 Pepperdine*** 7 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 15 Georgia*** 12 p.m.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee*** 7 p.m.

Tue., Sept. 18 at East Carolina 7 p.m.

Thurs., Sept. 20 Virginia 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 21 Maryland 7 p.m.

Tue., Sept. 25 Charlotte 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 28 at Wake Forest 7 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 29 at Duke 7:30 p.m.

Tue., Oct. 2 Clemson 7 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 5 Florida State 7 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 7 Georgia Tech 3 p.m.

Wed., Oct. 10 at N.C. State 7 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 12 Kansas 9 p.m.

Tue., Oct. 16 at Virginia 7 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 21 at Maryland 5 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 26 Duke 7 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 27 Wake Forest 6 p.m.

Fri., Nov. 2 at Georgia Tech 7 p.m.

Sun., Nov. 4 at Clemson 2 p.m.

Tue., Nov. 6 N.C. State 7 p.m.

Fri., Nov. 9 at Florida State 7 p.m.

Nov. 15-Nov. 18 ACC Tournament (in Tallahassee, Fla.)

Sat., Nov. 24 at South Carolina 2 p.m.

* Penn State Tournament

** Santa Clara Tournament

*** Carolina/Nike Classic

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.