The North Carolina volleyball team has been one of the best stories in UNC athletics all fall.
After starting the year 3-9 and facing the prospect of another year with a sub-.500 record, the Tar Heels went on a tear through once the ACC conference season started, with a five-game win streak heading into Wednesday's game against Wake Forest.
UNC volleyball experienced a heart-breaking loss against Wake Forest Wednesday. It marked the end of the season for several senior players. Head Coach Joe Sagula says that the team deserved so much more-- especially the seniors.
It was senior day, too — what was supposed to be a joyous moment. The Deacons were tied for last in the ACC. It should have been an easy win for a team that had dominated the second half of the season.
Instead, consistency issues plagued UNC as the team lost in five sets, 3-2, to its in-state rivals.
"I feel bad for the seniors today in particular," head coach Joe Sagula said. "This is disappointing because they deserved better. They have meant so much to this program.
"Their heart and soul-- they've been through the ups and downs of this program, at a high coming in a freshman, working through some tough times in the last two years and putting the team back in a good position this year."
The current group of seniors — Skylar Wine, Greer Moseman, Katharine Esterley and Mia Fradenburg — pitched in what they could in the game against Wake Forest. Wine was tied for second on the team in kills with 11, while Fradenburg and Moseman were first and second on the team in digs with 15 and 12, respectively.
"They put the culture back to (something) Carolina can be very proud of," Sagula said of his seniors. "Both on and off the court, they mean a lot to me and to everybody on this team."
Despite the efforts of the leaving players, as well as redshirt first-year Lauren Harrison who had a game-high 28 kills, the Tar Heels faltered in the last two sets, allowing the Demon Deacons to take the game and end UNC's win streak.
Even still, the seniors looked back on their time in Carolina blue fondly. Wine, who transferred to UNC from Pacific back in 2016, said that she has no regrets.
"Looking back, I think it was honestly one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life," Wine said. "It's obviously hard coming into a team new, but you're not quite a freshman, but this team was so welcoming from the beginning. We joke that it feels like I've been here all four years just because of how open they've been."
As for Fradenburg, she's been the team's best defensive player all season and a contributor from the first day she entered the program.
She has seen the highs, like a 29-4 record her first year and a third round appearance in the NCAA Tournament. And she has seen the lows, going 8-19 in 2018, the program's first sub-.500 season since 2009.
After finishing the last regular season home game of her career, the disappointment in the loss was clear. Yet, the senior lio took time to reflect on the team's turnaround this season.
"I'm just so proud of the way we stuck together throughout the first part of the season," Fradenburg said. "I really couldn't think of another way to go out. I'm really proud of all the work we've put in and I think we've helped make the foundation for the younger players to build on next year."
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