The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

UNC volleyball senior class leaves legacy behind

After Saturday’s match against 16th-seeded Creighton, tears began to stream down the faces of the North Carolina volleyball players.

Faces turned bright red and cheeks became puffy.

In a quick four-set match (32-30, 18-25, 18-25, 14-25) the Blue Jays (27-8) not only ended the Tar Heels' (21-10) season, but also ended the collegiate careers of five UNC seniors — middle hitters Paige Neuenfeldt and Victoria McPherson, setter Jordyn Schnabl, outside hitter Leigh Andrew and defensive specialist Heather Gearhart.

“We knew it was going to be close,” Coach Joe Sagula said. “We unfortunately got a little out of rhythm and out of sync in the third and the fourth set — kind of uncharacteristic of us. (Creighton) was able to be more efficient offensively.”

The Tar Heels began the game with momentum. UNC had a .300 hitting percentage and just three attack errors in the opening set. But as soon as the next set began, Creighton snatched the energy in Carmichael Arena and refused to let go.

The Blue Jays exploded offensively in the third set — Creighton notched a .438 hitting percentage and had just one attack error. In the fourth and deciding set, the Blue Jays did not give up the lead. UNC couldn’t even muster a tie at any point in the set.

Neuenfeldt praised the defensive efforts of junior libero Sheila Doyle, but added that UNC could not do enough to slow Creighton down and regain momentum.

“They won the serve and pass game today,” Neuenfeldt said. “They were really in system, and they had an efficient offense. Our block couldn’t really touch a lot until the end of the game. They were just efficient in putting the ball down."

Creighton’s Lauren Smith had 15 kills and only one attack error. But leading Creighton’s strong offensive outing was first-year outside hitter Jaali Winters, who led the Blue Jays with 21 kills and 21 digs.

“In the first set, I thought we had (Winters) a bit,” Sagula said. “But she got some momentum. She’s got a great future ahead of her. She had every angle, and we had a difficult time containing her and blocking her.”

In the past four seasons, the senior class won 103 total games — including five NCAA Tournament victories and the program’s first trip to the Elite Eight in 2014.

McPherson said she wants this year’s senior class to leave a legacy that shows the importance of each point and how to push through adversity.

“I just want to be able to pass down to the other girls a work ethic that only you can have inside of you,” she said. “No matter how bad your day is going and no matter how bad your body feels, you still want to be on that court.”


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