Though the North Carolina volleyball team defeated Clemson 3-1, UNC lacked consistency for most of the night.
The Tar Heels started the match off in dominating fashion, winning the first set 25-14 with 17 kills and a hitting percentage of .417.
UNC kept the Tigers to just 10 kills and a .103 hitting percentage.
But UNC couldn’t keep that control for long.
Clemson adjusted and took advantage of a complacent and over-confident Tar Heel squad to take an early four-point lead in the second set.
“We got a little confident (after the first set) and expected to be able to do the same thing to them,” senior Cora Harms said. “We should’ve changed some things.”
After making some modifications to its play, UNC was able to catch up to Clemson and stay close for the rest of the set.
But momentum eluded UNC and the Tigers managed to hang on and claim the set 25-23.
Harms said when they dropped the second set the team was angry, and started to play better.
Despite a close second-set loss that got the Tar Heels ready to fight, they still couldn’t find a rhythm and Clemson jumped to another early lead.
The two teams kept the set tight with nine ties and three lead changes, but after a double hit call on Chaniel Nelson, the Tigers made it to set point and looked to be on the verge of taking two from UNC.
With the set on the line, coach Joe Sagula called a timeout to try to get his team refocused.
“I said, ‘Just focus on this next play,’” he said. “I felt that if we got that one sideout we could come back and serve and tie it up. To get that point was huge.”
UNC did just that, getting the lead in the following plays and running with it to take the third set 26-24.
Senior outside hitter Emily McGee said that when an opponent gets the Tar Heels out of their rhythm, they have to compensate in other areas.
“Sometimes we have to find other ways to win,” McGee said.
“That’s what really made the difference, the little things that may not directly result in points but gets the other team out of system and gets our hitters the best chance to get kills.”
While they had plenty of kills — 59 overall — UNC continued to rely on the little things to finish off the match by taking the fourth set 25-20.
Although the Tar Heels were able to pull off the win, Sagula said he knows that the toughest tests are still ahead.
“We have to get better. I worry about that every night — I don’t sleep well because of that,” Sagula said.
“We have to learn to step up, mature as a team and get better and better. We have the capability, it’s just got to all come together.”
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