When the game went to five sets, it looked like more of the same for the North Carolina volleyball team.
“We were down, we missed the first serve in the fifth set, like OK, this isn’t what we wanted,” head coach Joe Sagula said.
Despite the concern, UNC (3-5) won the fifth set against Coastal Carolina University in dominating fashion.
After losing in five sets the previous night to Loyola Marymount, UNC commanded the fifth set against CCU, taking it 15-8. The team’s attack was spearheaded by redshirt junior Taylor Leath, senior Beth Nordhorn and redshirt first-year Holly Carlton, who combined for 42 of the team’s 58 total kills.
The win, however, came with major questions about the team’s focus after a fourth set that saw the team go down 5-1 early to CCU in what became a 25-18 loss.
“There’s no reason to play as well as we did in the second and third set, to show up in the fourth set like that,” Sagula said. “And I don’t know if that’s just maturity, that we haven’t learned how to handle the success of that and know how to keep building on it, because that’s what it seems like.”
Errors kept North Carolina playing from behind in the second set, with five service and five attacking errors — three of those errors coming early in the set — not allowing the team to gain any momentum against Coastal Carolina.
Outside of possible mental lapses, the team did well to continue to compete without star outside hitter Julia Scoles, whose concussion will keep her off the court for an undetermined amount of time.
Leath, a team captain, once again led the team in kills with 19. She was followed by Nordhorn, who had 13 on an efficient .524 hitting percentage. Carlton proved her all-around importance to the team by posting a triple-double with 10 kills, 25 assists and 10 digs.
Libero Mia Fradenburg chipped in 22 digs to help a defense grind out several sets decided in the very last serves.
The team was also helped by two new additions to the starting lineup: first-year defensive specialist Sehrena Hull and redshirt sophomore middle hitter Sydnye Fields. Fields had three kills while Hull helped the defense with 13 digs. Middle hitter Taylor Fricano was also moved to the left side, and she added eight kills to the offense.
The team is using its closely contested victory as a rallying point before heading into the start of conference play.
“I think it’s definitely a boost, we talk about learning from everything we do, win or lose,” Nordhorn said. “And it was good we got to use last night as something to learn from, rather than just having it happen.”
Redshirt first-year Katharine Esterley repeated what Leath had said before the fifth set on Saturday: “Remember last night. Remember how that felt. Remember what we need to do.”
North Carolina will begin its 20-game stretch of conference play this Friday at N.C. State — and the team’s preseason goal remains.
“We still have the same goal," Esterley said. "We still want to win that (ACC) championship ... We've got to work really hard, make sure we take care of our side of the net every time.”