After trailing behind the Hurricanes early in the first set, the Tar Heels never looked back, taking the set 25-21. North Carolina was anchored by strong blocking at the net by Bleke, who leads the team in blocks for the season.
Senior middle hitter Christine Vaughen also brought high energy to the first set, turning five of seven swings into kills for the Tar Heels.
But the Hurricanes were able to catch the UNC defense asleep at times, capitalizing on two quick dumps by setter Katie Gallagher that hit the floor on the North Carolina side of the net. But they weren’t enough, as two kills by senior outside hitter Courtney Johnston ended the set.
In the second set, the Tar Heels gained momentum on nine Miami attack errors and held the Hurricanes to a weak .023 hitting percentage. Senior outside hitter Suzanne Haydel was a standout in the set, earning nine digs and three kills. North Carolina went on to claim the set 25-17.
The third set started with a bang for the Tar Heels as they rallied for a 7-0 scoring run. With no points on the board, Miami called a timeout in an attempt to slow North Carolina’s attack.
The Tar Heels continued to dominate in the set, posting a 16-3 lead at one point. But with their second timeout of the set, the Hurricanes succeeded in decelerating their opponent.
“We maybe just lost focus and kind of expected Miami to roll over and they didn’t,” Vaughen said. “They came back and fought.”
Miami quickly closed the gap, cutting North Carolina’s lead to just two points near the end of the set.
But North Carolina pushed through and finished off the Hurricanes. A well-timed kill by Heather Henry put the team one point away from a win, and the match was decided by another Miami attack error. The Tar Heels finished the set 25-21.
“The fact that we fought back afterwards and came back, I thought that that showed very good character,” coach Joe Sagula said.
The 5-0 start in ACC play is UNC’s best since 2002. That year, the Tar Heels finished 32-4 with an appearance in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
The team will continue ACC play this week with away matches against Wake Forest and Duke.
Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.