“Winning in our gym and defending Carmichael is one of our standards for the season,” said sophomore Victoria McPherson, who topped her season-high in kills in each of the two games, posting nine on Friday and 10 on Saturday.
In a No. 15 vs. No. 16 matchup on Friday night in front of more than 2,100 fans, the No. 15 Tar Heels defeated the Illini in three sets with scores of 25-18, 25-15, and 25-17.
Leading UNC offensively was graduate student and outside hitter Jovana Bjelica, who tallied 14 kills and three blocks.
Junior libero Ece Tanner registerd 20 digs on the night.
“We all thought it was gonna be a closer match,” coach Joe Sagula said.
“We could play them five more times and it could be a 3-2 match or it could be 3-0 the other way.”
McPherson said it was the most energetic she’d seen her team play all season.
“Even when we were down … everyone was really just like, ‘All right, let’s get back in it,’’’ she said.
“There was never a time when someone was just like head down or upset about it.”
In the following game against an Indiana team that Sagula urged his players to not underestimate, the Tar Heels prevailed again.
Starting out strong by charging to a 25-19 win in the first set, the next set gave UNC its toughest battle of the weekend.
The Hoosiers withstood a Tar Heel comeback to hold on for a 25-23 win.
After being down by as many as eight points in that second set, UNC fought to tie the score at 20, eventually taking a two-point lead.
But four service errors committed throughout the set allowed Indiana to claim the set.
“It was not pretty volleyball compared to what we had seen (Friday),” Sagula said.
“We knew this was going to be a little bit of a struggle after playing such an emotional win with a great crowd.”
But the Tar Heels came back to take the next two sets to put Indiana away, including a 25-14 win on a 3-0 run to end the fourth set and take the match.
“It was a tough game, it was an emotional game, we wanted to prove ourselves,” outside hitter Jovana Bjelica said.
“But in the end, we didn’t panic.”