The North Carolina volleyball team (3-7) fell to VCU in a heartbreaking match on Friday, but captured two more wins on its season on Saturday against Colgate and Radford as part of the Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill.
Following tough losses against Miami (Ohio) and Michigan State, the Tar Heels took to the court on Friday night to face VCU (9-5) for their first match with something to prove.
UNC looked strong for the majority of the first set, keeping a steady lead. But when the team was up 21-15, VCU went on a six-point run, tying the set. The Tar Heels and Rams were tied at 21, 23, 24, and 25 points apiece until VCU finally broke through and secured a 27-25 win.
UNC controlled the entirety of the second set, jumping out to a 17-11 lead and winning 25-21.
Both teams battled tirelessly in the third and fourth sets. In the third set, UNC took a short-lived 14-11 lead, but VCU tied it up at 14 and went on to win the set 25-23.
North Carolina left nothing on the court in the fourth. The match was a nail-biter from the beginning, and the Tar Heels stayed alive through four match points. The scoring went back and forth until the Rams won the thrilling but disappointing set 30-28, and UNC fell 3-1 in its first match of the weekend.
“It was a heartbreaker yesterday,” head coach Joe Sagula said. “I was just kind of sad for the team because I thought we worked hard enough to feel like we deserved to win, but we just didn’t make a couple of plays here and there, one or two points here and there.”
Despite the scoreboard, the match was a big moment for redshirt first-year Lauren Harrison, who recorded a career-high 17 kills.
Back in action on Saturday, UNC battled Colgate (7-5). Although fresh off a win against Radford on Friday, the Raiders had their work cut out for them against the Tar Heels. The score was tied seven times throughout the first set, but North Carolina won 25-22.
UNC remained just as confident on the court in the second set, dominating the game and keeping its lead throughout, beating the Raiders 25-20.
Colgate did not go down without a fight, jumping out to an early lead in the third set. The Tar Heels fought hard, tying the game at 13, but the Raiders came out on top to win the set 25-19, making only three errors compared to UNC’s seven.
As the match progressed, Colgate and UNC exchanged points until Colgate, trying to force a fifth set, took a 23-21 lead. However, the Tar Heels went on a clutch 4-0 run and closed out the match 3-1 to seal the win.
UNC finished the Carolina Classic against Radford (4-8). The Tar Heels swept the Highlanders, who went 0-3 over the weekend, off the court in three sets, winning 25-16, 25-21 and 25-14 to wrap up the weekend on a high note.
First-year Parker Austin led the team in kills with 15 against Radford. But Austin said she owed her success to the team.
“I think our focus, since we’ve had a bit of a tough start this season, was to really come together as a team and figure out how to bring forth our absolute best effort every single point of every single game,” Austin said. “I think that at the end of this game, it really showed that we accomplished that goal.”
The Tar Heels will kick off conference play on Friday in South Bend, Indiana, against Notre Dame.
“I told the team, we are 0-0 in the ACC, we are first place with 15 other teams,” Sagula said. “So a new season for us, take what we learned, create the energy. We’re gonna run this offense, and let’s take it and be ready for our first matches on the road.”
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