The North Carolina volleyball team saw highs and lows as the squad split ACC matches on Friday and Sunday. After losing in five sets to Georgia Tech, 3-2, the Tar Heels made a second appearance in Carmichael Arena two days later to sweep Clemson in three straight sets.
In the loss, UNC and Georgia Tech were evenly matched throughout the evening, with 35 ties and 16 lead changes during the match.
After North Carolina won the first set, 25-23, Georgia Tech rebounded to take the second, 25-21. Late in the third set, first-year Parker Austin had two straight blocks to tie the score, 22-22, before the Tar Heels rallied to win the set, 25-23, off a final kill by senior Skylar Wine.
After UNC started off with an early lead in the fourth set, Georgia Tech went on a seven-point run to go ahead, 14-10, a position that the Yellow Jackets would not relinquish in their 25-20 set win.
In the fifth set, the Yellow Jackets and Tar Heels battled through five tie scores. After UNC’s first-year Carly Peck scored the first point of the set, Georgia Tech scored three straight points to lead, 3-1. The Yellow Jackets didn't look back and defeated UNC, 15-11, to win the match.
In Friday's loss, 12 different Tar Heels played in the match, seven of which were first years and sophomores. In addition, redshirt first-year Lauren Harrison led the team with 21 kills, and Austin and Wine added 15 and 12 kills, respectively. Even though UNC lost the match, head coach Joe Sagula was optimistic.
“There were times I thought everyone was playing phenomenal, and (at other points) ‘Oh my gosh, they are making some crazy bonehead plays,'" Sagula said. “We have seen the highs and lows of both in this match.”
The Tar Heels' seven-match winning streak at home ended against the Yellow Jackets, but in the midst of their defeat, they posed a question for Sagula.
“I think it is going to tell us more about who we are by how we come back and handle this," Sagula said.
He got his answer on Sunday against Clemson, when the Tar Heels swept the Tigers to get back on track.
“We realized that we needed to go hard and attack fast, attack the Carolina way,” first-year Skyy Howard said. “We just came out and had the mentality that we were going to win, that there was no way we were going to lose today.”
In the first set, UNC’s Destiny Cox had four kills and Harrison had three, while the Tar Heels had 13 total kills in a 25-14 win. Early in the second set, North Carolina and Clemson were tied 7-7, but UNC scored the next two points and went on to win 25-17.
In the third and final set, Clemson scored the first point, but UNC responded with five straight to take a lead that it would not relinquish. North Carolina's Cox and Howard, who had four and three kills in the set, respectively, propelled the Tar Heels to a 25-20 match-sealing victory.
Cox, who did not play against Georgia Tech due to injury, returned on Sunday and led the team with 11 kills, her second-highest total of the season, against the Tigers.
“I think coming into it I knew I was out for a while, for a week or so,” Cox said. “I think coming into today, I wanted to get into a rhythm and get back to playing how I was playing before.”
After the Tar Heels' loss to the Yellow Jackets, their aggressiveness against Clemson led to a dominating win, allowing for Howard's promise of a win to come to fruition. According to Sagula, it also set the tone for the rest of the 2019 campaign.
“They told me that they are ready to play and make a run at the season," he said.
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