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The Daily Tar Heel

Volleyball Regroups Before Tourney

After losing its final game of the regular season, UNC plays Clemson on Friday in the conference tournament.

But this weekend, the Tar Heels will try to vanquish the losing spirits to the deep, dark recesses of FSU's Tully Gym and capture their third consecutive conference tournament title.

Second-seeded UNC (20-7,

12-4 in the ACC) looks to exorcise the demons of defeat in a first-round ACC Tournament match against seventh-seeded Clemson (10-16, 4-12) at 5 p.m. on Friday.

North Carolina had little trouble dispatching Clemson in the two regular season meetings between the teams, winning 3-1 on Oct. 2 and 3-0 on Nov. 4.

But the Tar Heels have to be careful not to look past the Tigers.

"I think a lot of times it's hard to beat a team three times in a season," said UNC outside hitter Laura Greene. "Having lost to a couple teams gives us more knowledge of the teams and what we have to do to beat them."

This extra knowledge could come into play if UNC gets by Clemson. Looming in the second round will be the winner of the Georgia Tech-Maryland match.

It was the Terrapins that ended UNC's 13-match winning streak on

Oct. 21. Since then, the Tar Heels have limped to a 3-4 record and fallen to second place in the conference.

But North Carolina is most concerned with Wake Forest and Tech. The Demon Deacons spoiled UNC's senior day with a 3-1 thrashing on Oct. 27, and the Yellow Jackets handed the Tar Heels their second consecutive loss a few days later.

"We need to come back and beat Wake Forest and Georgia Tech," said defensive specialist Caroline deRoeck. "Three days of volleyball: We should be good for that."

Effective defense will be key for North Carolina, said UNC coach Joe Sagula.

"The difference is going to be maintaining defensive intensity because offensively, we can do it with anybody," Sagula said. "We get an energy and we get a focus because of how well we dig balls."

Sagula said serving is the second key to postseason success. North Carolina had a season-high 14 aces in a three-game sweep of N.C. State on Nov. 6, then had just one ace in their loss to FSU.

"Not everyone has been playing their best at the same time this season," Strauss said. "So when that happens, I feel bad for the other team."

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

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