North Carolina volleyball coach Joe Sagula said his team doesn’t have an MVP for the pre-ACC season.
And after UNC swept the Tar Heel Classic this weekend, he said it’s not such a bad thing.
Veteran play from senior outside hitter Courtney Johnston, the tournament MVP, senior middle hitter Christine Vaughen and junior libero Kaylie Gibson lifted the Tar Heels to a 9-4 record for the season.
“I thought the seniors did a good job of leading the team all weekend with their good determination and their good play,” Sagula said.
The Tar Heels came out strong against the Ball State Cardinals (10-2) on Friday night, with senior Suzanne Haydel registering the first kill of the match. The team went on to win in four sets (25-20, 25-27, 25-16, 25-21).
Dynamic play by Gibson, an all-tournament selection, gave the Tar Heels the energy they needed to earn the win. Gibson tallied a season-high 26 digs against the Cardinals.
Johnston and freshman hitter Kayla Berringer each earned 12 kills while sophomore setter Cora Harms had 37 assists in the match.
On Saturday, the Tar Heels took on Appalachian State, which had a 9-2 record going into the match.
North Carolina showcased a strong attacking effort that shut out the Mountaineers in three sets (25-22, 25-17, 25-23). The team tallied 51 kills.
After a comfortable eight-point victory in the second set, the Tar Heels had a tougher time in the third. The score remained close throughout the set, with the Tar Heels ultimately pulling out a narrow victory.
In the nightcap, the Tar Heels squared off against Temple. UNC took three sets (25-18, 25-16, 25-17) to beat the Owls (2-10) in a victory that decided the team’s first place finish for the weekend.
The team showed consistent play against Temple, holding the Owls to an abysmal -.020 hitting percentage. The Tar Heels finished the match with a .277 hitting percentage and 43 kills to the Owls’ 20.
But the match against Temple highlighted a weakness that plagued North Carolina during the tournament. The team racked up twice as many service errors as the Owls, tallying 10 for the match. They also coughed up eight service errors against Appalachian State and nine against Ball State.
“We can’t make 10 errors and two aces too many times and expect to win,” Sagula said. “We need more of a one-to-one ratio.”
Still, Sagula was pleased with the team’s performance and was happy to give some of his veteran players a rest before heading into conference play.
The Tar Heels begin ACC play on Tuesday at N.C. State.
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