Going into the 2010 season, coach Joe Sagula and the North Carolina volleyball team knew that blocking would be the team’s Achilles’ heel.
The Tar Heels lost two key middle blockers at the end of last season, with graduated Heather Brooks and Ingrid Hanson-Tuntland signing professional contracts in Europe.
The team felt Brooks’ and Hanson-Tuntland’s absence in its match against Penn State on Friday night. The No. 1 Nittany Lions exposed the team’s weakness by recording nearly three times as many blocks as the Tar Heels, racking up 15 team blocks compared to the Tar Heels’ 5.5.
North Carolina struggled to cope with an obvious height disadvantage. The Nittany Lions have seven players who are 6-foot-3 or taller, while the tallest Tar Heels stand at 6-foot-2.
“We have Cora Harms, who’s 5-foot-8, going up against Deja McClendon, who’s 6-foot-1,” Sagula said. “We can’t stop her. We’re not going to win that battle.”
In the team’s match against Campbell on Saturday, the Tar Heels stepped up their blocking game enough to hold off the Camels. The team held the Campbell’s hitting percentage to .046 as the Tar Heels won in three sets.
But UNC suffered a setback when sophomore middle hitter Meg Yanda injured her knee in the first set against Villanova. Sagula said Yanda might have torn her ACL and was not optimistic about her chances of returning this season.
“We’re not sure where things are,” Sagula said. “We’ll know more, but it’s not looking good.”
The loss of Yanda on the court rattled the team and slowed North Carolina’s defense.