The North Carolina volleyball team (3-9, 0-2 ACC) was unable to bounce back from Friday's loss as the Tar Heels were defeated, 3-1, by ACC opponent Louisville (9-3, 2-0 ACC) in another road match on Sunday.
Louisville — the first team left off of Monday's American Volleyball Coaches Association top-25 rankings — came out swinging in the first set as they quickly took an 8-3 lead. UNC responded with a flurry of kills and aces to eventually cut Louisville's lead, 17-15. The Tar Heels continued to battle it out and took the first set, 25-23. It was the first set North Carolina had won since its September 21 match against Colgate.
The second set started off similar, with Louisville jumping out to another early lead, but North Carolina bounced back to pull ahead, 9-8. The two teams traded points and the Tar Heels found themselves leading near the end of the set, 20-18. However, Louisville gained momentum and came back to win the second set, 25-21.
In the third set, UNC's back row made some outstanding plays and North Carolina was once again ahead late, 20-18. Louisville was able to come from behind to take the set after the Tar Heels committed four attack errors while closing out the set, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead on the afternoon.
The fourth set was another close one. North Carolina and Louisville found themselves tied midway through, 16-16. Louisville proved to be the better team in the clutch moments of the set, once again, and edged out the victory, 25-22, to secure the match.
“They’re a really good team and I’m just encouraged at how well we played,” head coach Joe Sagula said. “Most of the match sets were close and we’ve made so much progress from a few weeks ago.”
Who stood out?
Redshirt first-year Lauren Harrison had a significant impact on the game. Harrison had a game-high 19 kills and added five blocks to cap off her impressive night.
“We were all feeling good about the emerging player of Lauren Harrison," Sagula said. "She led all players in kills and she’s only going to get better and better. These are her first matches back and we’re getting her into a rhythm. She’s a force and our go-to player and she’s going to take a lot of hits this year.”
On the defensive side, senior Mia Fradenburg had a career-high 25 digs in the match.
"That’s what you want from your senior libero, averaging over 6 digs per set and that’s what we need from her," Sagula said.
When was it decided?
The trend for UNC volleyball this season has been falling just short of closing out tight sets. Sunday's match was no different, leaving the decision of each set up in the air until the final point. Every set against Louisville was decided by four points or less.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels had a better hit percentage, more blocks, and more aces compared to the Cardinals. The match's 38 ties proved that North Carolina can compete with good competition, despite not finishing sets strong.
“If we play like this going forward, we’re going to win games very soon,” Sagula said.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to Raleigh next on Wednesday, October 2, as they continue ACC play against NC State at 7 p.m.
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