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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Stays 1st in ACC Despite Loss

The Tar Heels bounced back with a sweep of second-place Duke on Friday, but Sagula didn't expect his team's resilience to be tested again in Saturday's match against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons shocked the Tar Heels with a 3-1 win.

UNC (18-5, 10-2 in the ACC) had a week to get ready for the rival Blue Devils (16-3, 8-3), and its extra preparation showed.

Nicole Reis had six kills and notched a .385 hitting percentage to help the Tar Heels capture a hard-fought first game 30-28.

Laura Greene preserved UNC's victory with a one-handed diving dig on the final point, and outside hitter Molly Pyles finished the point with a strong kill.

North Carolina had to play most of the second game without Reis, who injured her shin at the end of the first game. Pyles and Malaika Underwood came up with four kills apiece in Reis' absence, and Greene led the team with six kills as UNC edged Duke 30-28.

"Nicole's definitely our strongest offensive weapon," Greene said. "Without her on the court, somebody's got to step up."

Reis came back in a big way in the third game. She smashed 10 kills as the Tar Heels cruised to a 30-24 victory. With the score tied at five, the Tar Heels took control with a 5-0 run, then won 17 of the next 20 points. Reis served for seven consecutive points at the end of the rally to give UNC a 21-8 lead.

"Nicole gave us a huge lift in that third game," Sagula said. "She just pounded the ball. They didn't have an answer for that.

"They made some unforced errors early, and we got into a good rhythm."

The win kept the Tar Heels in first place and showed they could bounce back from a loss. It also gave them bragging rights over their chief rival.

"The rivalry always gets us real pumped for this game," Pyles said.

UNC could have used that motivation Saturday. The Tar Heels won the first game against Wake (14-8, 7-5), but Trina Maso de Moya led the Deacons to victories in the next three games, spoiling UNC's Senior Day.

"Trina played an excellent game," Wake Forest coach Valorie Baker said. "Obviously with that, we were able to turn some offense that they had trouble picking up tonight."

Maso de Moya was quiet offensively in the first game, and the Tar Heels took advantage with a 30-28 win.

But Maso de Moya didn't stay silent for long. She took over the second game, recording five of her 21 kills and five of her eight aces. Wake Forest jumped out to a 13-3 lead, and staved off two UNC rallies en route to a 30-25 victory.

North Carolina took an early 15-7 lead, but the Wake slowly clawed its way back into the game. Wake's Sara Beth DeLisle had three key kills in the last six points as the Demon Deacons slipped past UNC with a 31-29 win.

"We weren't sharp tonight; everything was a step slow," Sagula said. "When we did dig balls, our transition into offense wasn't that great. And I think that's where we lost points."

The North Carolina defense continued to struggle in the fourth game, and Wake Forest cruised to an easy 30-22 win.

"Our girls stayed focused at the end of that last game," Baker said. "They didn't break down, they made one error, but they came back."

UNC seniors Krista Buchholz and Melissa Higgins said the loss was particularly bitter because it came on Senior Day.

"Since I've been here, I can't remember a senior class that's lost on Senior Day, so that's definitely a big disappointment," Buchholz said.

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But the seniors can take comfort knowing that UNC is still in first place. The Tar Heels hope this loss motivates the team, just like the Maryland loss did.

"We'll be better because of it," Higgins said. "Next weekend we have Georgia Tech. They're definitely a top team in the conference, and I think we're going to come out and blow them away. I know we can."

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