It looked like Virginia Tech would put the match away in the fourth set after it built a 15-8 advantage. However, UNC fought back to take the lead, and a kill from Austin gave the Tar Heels a 25-22 victory, bringing the contest to a decisive closing set.
Ultimately, North Carolina could not carry over the momentum it established in the previous two sets. Although the Tar Heels held an early 4-2 lead, the Hokies clawed back to score the next five points. After some back-and-forth play closed UNC’s deficit to 10-9, Virginia Tech went on a four-point run to win the shortened set, 15-10.
“In the third set, we brought in some defensive specialists to solidify some of our passing, and also got some players rest so they could be more fresh,” UNC volleyball head coach Joe Sagula said. “The fourth set we came back, but in the fifth set we let it slip away.”
Who stood out?
Austin led the Tar Heels with 17 kills, doing so with an impressive .295 hitting percentage. Many of these kills came in critical situations, which gave the team the chance to make the comeback.
Following a 14-kill performance in her collegiate debut on Thursday, first-year Aziah Buckner was stellar once again, totaling 15 kills in Friday’s loss.
“I think she’s learning how to score over the big block,” Sagula said. “She brings an aggressive mentality to the offense, and at crucial times, she’s not afraid to take a big swing.”
When was it decided?
The outcome of the contest remained in question until the final set, when a flurry of Virginia Tech points helped the Hokies regain control of the match and come away with the win.
Why does it matter?
With a shortened eight-game schedule in place, the Tar Heels have three more weekend series to adjust to the modified campaign. Sagula says that always playing the same team consecutively can be challenging, but it is something the team is willing to embrace.
“Going forward, we will prepare all week for a team, and know that the next day we must do a great job as a coaching staff to prepare them as if we’re playing a different team,” he said. “We know that our opponents are going to make adjustments against us, but we still have to execute our game plan.”
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will open their first home series on Friday, Oct. 9, when they take on the Virginia Cavaliers in Carmichael Arena at 7 p.m.
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