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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC volleyball falls to Minnesota in four sets in first loss of season

The No. 11 North Carolina lost its first game of the season to No. 5 Minnesota in four sets Saturday night (25-11, 25-12, 22-25, 25-21).

What happened?

The Tar Heels (6-1) got off to a sluggish start in the first set when the Golden Gophers (5-1)  jumped out to a 6-1 lead. First-year Julia Scoles had back-to-back kills to bring the Tar Heels to 10-6, but UNC couldn’t recover, as the Golden Gophers held the lead for the rest of the set. Minnesota only extended the lead, finally winning by 14 points. UNC hit an uncharacteristic -.04, while the Golden Gophers hit .440 with four blocks, and the Tar Heels had no blocks.

The second set went the same way. The Golden Gophers jumped to a 6-1 lead, which they held throughout the set. The Tar Heels, improved to hit .125, but still couldn’t get any blocks. The Golden Gophers hitting .455 with another four blocks, taking the set 25-12.

The Tar Heels came roaring back from what seemed like certain defeat in three sets, powered by digs from Sheila Doyle, assists from Abigail Curry and kills by Taylor Borup. North Carolina fought through six tied points and three lead changes to prevail 25-22 in the third set.

The fourth set was hard fought. In the midst of the gridlock, Madison Laufenberg suffered an injury, causing the game to pause while trainers escorted her off of the court. Both teams were almost deadlocked between the first point of the match until Minnesota took a 20-17 lead. Even then, the Tar Heels battled to a score of 23-20, but couldn’t take the set, losing 25-21.

Who stood out?

First-year Taylor Borup had a great performance, with four blocks and a career-high 17 kills. She had two critical kills late in the third set to help UNC go up 22-20 and eventually win the set.

Co-captains Abigail Curry and Sheila Doyle gave everything they had to keep the Tar Heels in the game, but came up short. Doyle had 17 digs and Curry had 32 assists. Doyle had a spectacular fingertip dig to help the Tar Heels win a point and go up 21-19 in the third set.

When was it decided?

UNC fought hard in the third and fourth sets, but it is incredibly challenging to capture a victory after losing the first two sets of the match. Ultimately, the slow start cost UNC a shot at taking down the Golden Gophers.

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels were undefeated coming into this game and just earned a win against No. 2 Wisconsin. The game would have been an opportunity for the Tar Heels to defeat a third ranked opponent. But UNC's slow start did no favors.

But North Carolina has a strong record against ranked teams and has fared well against tough competition so far. UNC probably won’t jump as high in the rankings as they would’ve with a win, but the Tar Heels will certainly be able to bounce back from the loss at the hands of a tough opponent.

Coach Joe Sagula said that while he never wants to lose, this loss came at a good time for the Tar Heels so they can learn the lessons they need to stay on top the rest of the season.

Who do they play next?

The Tar Heels take on Sam Houston State on Friday, September 16 at 3 p.m. in the TCU Horned Frog Invitational.

@ColedelCharco

sports@dailytarheel.com

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