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The Daily Tar Heel

Tough slate ahead for UNC volleyball

volleyball pre
Courtney Johnston is the only member of UNC’s volleyball team that was selected to the All-ACC team. She totaled 56 block assists last year.

With each match they play this season, the volleyball team faces a close contest.
North Carolina faces a tough schedule, playing ten games against teams that qualified to the NCAA Tournament in 2009.

But even with formidable opponents, head coach Joe Sagula predicts UNC will come out ahead.
“We’re going to be the type of team to win a lot of close games,” he said. “It will come down to the last couple of points in each match.”

The team is ranked fifth in the ACC Preseason Poll, having finished tied for fifth in the conference last season. The team had a 15-16 record, going 11-9 in the ACC.

While Sagula said the fifth-seed ranking is accurate, he hopes to surpass those expectations.
“It shows a matter of respect for us,” Sagula said. “But we’re not satisfied. Our goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season.”

This year, Sagula will look to senior right-side hitter Courtney Johnston to earn high numbers of kills and blocks for the team.

Johnston is the team’s leading returner in blocks, recording 56 block assists and double-digit kills in seven matches last season. She was named to the 18-member preseason All-ACC team earlier this month.

Redshirt senior Christine Vaughen will also be an offensive leader for the team, Sagula said.In past seasons, Vaughen has led the team in hitting percentage and recorded consistently high numbers of kills.
“I expect her to be a much-improved blocker,” Sagula said. “She’s seen highs and lows, and she knows what the opponents are like.”

This summer, the team welcomed Tyler Adams as a volunteer assistant coach. Adams previously served as a technical assistant for the USA A2 Blue National team.

Adams will focus his efforts with the outside hitting staff and will provide video analysis for the team.
“He creates additional balance, a different perspective,” Sagula said. “He’s meshed so well with what we do.”

The Tar Heels will host two home tournaments — the Carolina Classic and the Tar Heel Classic. And while the team is preparing for the home tournaments, it looks forward to the newly renovated Carmichael Arena.

“We’re excited to be back in Carmichael, getting the crowds and having thousands of people at our first match,” Sagula said.

The team will kick off the season with the Carolina Classic on Aug. 27. In the opening game, the Tar Heels will square off against back-to-back-to-back national champions Penn State.

Sagula is eager to see the team’s progress throughout the season, especially in defense.

“Defense is going to be a very steady part of what we’re about this year,” he said. “If we are able to really be an effective blocking team, be able to slow opponents down, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”

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