Standing with a 5-7 record and a .500 record in conference play, it was clear something was missing for the North Carolina volleyball team — that something was sophomore outside hitter Taylor Borup.
Since Borup’s return from an injury that caused her to miss eight games, the Tar Heels (9-7, 6-2 ACC) have won four straight contests and beat a reeling Virginia (4-15) squad in three straight sets on Saturday.
Borup led a Tar Heel first set charge with three kills, culminating in a 25-12 win. It was the Tar Heels' largest margin of victory in any set all season. Going into the contest, head coach Joe Sagula preached the importance of taking the opening set, something the Tar Heels had done just three times this season.
“Well I think this was a big win for confidence,” he said. “We’ve been pushing to get a first-set victory. I think we’re starting to get a rhythm. We know what we’re going to do with our left-side of the attack now. We know we can count on Borup and Leath. I think they’re going to get into a rhythm.”
The two combined for 14 kills on the night and paced the Tar Heels in the team’s most dominant win of the season.
Borup’s return to the lineup has benefited her teammates, including redshirt senior Taylor Fricano. She had her best game of the season on Saturday, finishing with seven kills and eight blocks. The outspoken senior was delighted to have Borup back in the lineup.
"She is such a good player and brings so much to the table as far as her swing and her block," Fricano said. "People don’t want to hit at her, but she’s really good blocking-wise and our defense always benefits from it.”
It took some time to build chemistry with the young team, but the Tar Heels are finally looking more like the squad that advanced to the Sweet 16 last season.
Now, the team looks ahead to a daunting home matchup with N.C. State on Wednesday.
The Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels in five sets on Sept. 22 and carry an 8-0 conference record into the contest. But Borup is confident in her team’s chances.
“Now that we have gotten 16 games into the season, I think we are at a good place,” she said. “We are flowing really well and we are all just really excited.”
The confidence is contagious and junior setter Kendra Koetter is looking forward to playing at home against the Wolfpack.
“I think we have learned a lot since then,” she said as a smile crept across her face. “I’m ready for some revenge.”
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