During the Carolina Spring Tournament on Saturday — which featured UNC, Duke, Virginia Tech and N.C. State — rising redshirt sophomore Taylor Leath offered a glimpse of how she might be part of the answer.
The Tar Heels won all three of their matches by a score of two sets to one, with Leath imposing her will as an outside hitter.
“(Leath) has become stronger, which has given her confidence,” Sagula said. “All of last year, she was trying to figure things out for herself. Now she realizes she’s strong, her legs are good, she’s physical and she’s going to go bring it.”
The Carolina Spring Tournament, hosted at the Smith Center, was the fourth and final exhibition tournament of the spring season for the Tar Heels. In each of the three previous tournaments, Leath registered at least 10 kills.
In the RVC Spring Tournament hosted by Richmond Volleyball Club on April 9, Leath led the team with 22 kills.
Rising senior setter Abigail Curry said Leath has the potential to play a significant role for the team in the 2016 season.
“She’s taking a lot more of a leadership role at her position because we’ve had a lot of big players leave,” Curry said. “She realizes that she has a gap to fill, and you can tell she’s working hard every single day.
“She’s the one player who’s taking the hardest approaches and swinging away. She’s someone I can always count on.”
Leath joined the Tar Heels in 2014, but she redshirted with an injury. In the 2015 season, she played in 98 sets and tallied 218 kills, 97 digs and 56 blocks. She started in 10 of the 30 matches she played in.
Leath said she hopes to be a six-rotation player — a versatile athlete who has the ability to attack, defend and pass the ball.
“My goal — and I wrote it down and shared it with my coaches — is that I wanted to be a six-rotation player that my team could depend on,” Leath said. “Throughout the spring, my goal has been to serve, pass, hit and play defense.”
At this point in the year, Leath said she isn’t sure how big of a role she will play next season.
But the opposite hitter does know one thing — she gives her full effort each time she steps onto the court.
“I feel as if I have worked really hard to get on the court,” Leath said. “That’s all I can really do — go 100 percent every day.
“Playing time is never promised. The only thing I can control is how hard I’m working.”