North Carolina turned up the pressure on defense, taking the second set, 25-20, and the third set, 25-18, to reclaim control of the match. The third set saw some of the Tar Heels’ best play this season, as they kept the Wolfpack from successfully completing a single attack.
Despite two victorious sets in a row, UNC was unable to close out the fourth set. N.C. State’s Jessica Kemp tormented North Carolina around the net, recording five kills in a fourth set comeback by the Wolfpack. The 25-21 loss kept N.C. State's chances alive and pushed the match to a decisive fifth set.
It appeared that the Wolfpack would ride their momentum and come away with a victory once they cruised ahead to an 8-3 advantage in the final set, just seven points away from a win for the evening.
With the crowd against them and the possibility of a winless conference record looming, the Tar Heels executed their second game-defining comeback. They scored 12 out of the next 16 points to bounce back and take the match.
Who stood out?
A lot of Tar Heels stood out in this conference rivalry match, but none proved more crucial down the stretch than first-year Skyy Howard.
Her presence around the net was undeniable, especially late in the match. UNC posted a season-high 19.5 team blocks on Wednesday night. Howard led the way with 11 total blocks on her own.
Howard has been a bright spot for the Tar Heels this season, and her first-year status gives hope for the program going forward.
When was it decided?
With the final set tied at 11, it was Howard who rose above the rest for three consecutive blocks that took the air out of Reynolds Coliseum.
Each time she sent back a Wolfpack attack, the standout middle blocker let out a roar that signaled to everyone on the court that she was taking over.
Those three consecutive points gave the Tar Heels a 14-11 advantage and propelled them to a come-from-behind win over a conference rival.
Why does it matter?
For a team that only had wins over Colgate, UC Irvine, and Radford going into Wednesday’s match, a quality win over a Power 5 team gives UNC assurance that it can stay competitive as it progresses through this season.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will return to Carmichael Arena for a match against Virginia Tech on Sunday, Oct. 6, at 1 p.m.
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