The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday December 2nd

UNC volleyball unable to close out close sets in 3-0 loss to Michigan State

UNC volleyball redshirt sophomore Hunter Atherton (10) and first-year Ava Bell (20) block a spike from a FSU player during the game against the Seminoles on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. UNC lost the game 3-0.
Buy Photos UNC volleyball redshirt sophomore Hunter Atherton (10) and first-year Ava Bell (20) block a spike from a FSU player during the game against the Seminoles on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. UNC lost the game 3-0.

The North Carolina volleyball team fell to Michigan State in three straight sets on Sunday in East Lansing, Michigan, marking UNC’s third loss in a row this season. 

What happened?

North Carolina (1-6) fought hard against Michigan State (6-1) but a few late mistakes hurt the Tar Heels and sent them home after three sets, 25-21, 25-21 and 25-13. 

The opening two sets were very close, with a total of 16 ties and 10 lead changes between the two teams. 

"The first two sets were the quality of play I want for us in terms of taking really good swings offensively, making really good digs and being in it," head coach Joe Sagula said. "We were in both sets for a long time until they got a two or three point run and that was the difference."

After both teams were able to make significant offensive runs, the Tar Heels tied the score at 19 in the first set. But an older, more experienced MSU team proved to be too much as the Spartans overpowered North Carolina to secure the set.

"I felt like we were able to sustain a high level of play for a much longer period of time versus a high quality team," Sagula said. "So those takeaways make us feel like we’re moving in the right direction."

However, the third set was when UNC ran out of gas, which led to three runs of four or more unanswered points for the Spartans. Michigan State made sure to capitalize on all the mistakes and put the game away with a 25-13 victory in the final set. 

Despite the loss, Sagula was not disappointed with the effort he saw from his team. 

"They are a bigger, more physical, athletic team than we saw on Friday," Sagula said. "We knew it was going to be a tough battle but the irony of it is that I thought we played much better volleyball through the first two sets."

Who stood out?

Sagula was pleased with first-year Parker Austin's performance after she recorded nine kills, a team-high against Michigan State.

"She had some good hits, did a pretty good job today," Sagula said.

He was also impressed with Carly Peck, who made the first start of her career as a first-year on Sunday. Peck finished the match with four kills on 20 total attacks and four digs.

"Although the numbers didn’t show it, she had a really good impact in her overall play," Sagula said.

When was it decided?

The game was decided about halfway through the third set when the Spartans began to pull ahead, 17-9. North Carolina tried to fight its way back into the match with a run of three straight points to counter, but UNC was unable to bounce back and force a fourth set.

Why does it matter?

"I’m encouraged," Sagula said. "I’m certainly not happy with the results, but I think this is a sign that we’re moving in the right direction."

With a young squad, the Tar Heels are continuing to learn after each match and looking to finish out matches stronger in the final plays.

When do they play next?

After its five-match road trip, North Carolina will return to Carmichael Arena to play VCU on Friday, September 20 at 6:30 p.m.

@andrewmontross

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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