The North Carolina volleyball team defeated N.C. State 3-1 in Raleigh for the second time this weekend, bringing the Tar Heels' record to 4-2 this season.
UNC started off strong, winning the first set 25-20. Destiny Cox’s five kills and solid defense from Kaya Merkler and Parker Austin at the net contributed to the Tar Heels’ success early on. Consecutive aces by first-year Maylen Mitrovich in the middle of the set gave the team some momentum to close out the set.
Early kills by Merkler and Austin and an ace by Karenna Wurl gave North Carolina a 3-2 lead to start off the second set. However, UNC was forced to call a timeout after N.C. State went on a six-point run to take a 17-10 lead. UNC came out of the timeout strong, with consecutive kills by Cox and Aziah Buckner, but struggled to hold on as N.C. State closed the set 25-16.
North Carolina redeemed itself in the third set. After a slow start and a five-point run by the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels kept themselves in the game, with the help of two kills by Amanda Phegley and Austin, which brought the score to 14-16. After a timeout by N.C. State, North Carolina found some momentum and went on a four-point run to tie the game at 18. N.C. State stayed within one or two points of the Tar Heels for the back-end of the set, but UNC went on to win the set 25-23.
The fourth set was the Tar Heels’ strongest. The team had its highest hitting percentage (.406) and its lowest number of errors (three) compared to the other sets. The set began with a kill by Phegley, then remained pretty even until a kill by Cox catalyzed a five-point run by the Tar Heels, bringing the score to 13-7. UNC kept the lead for the rest of the set, finishing it 25-17.
“I think that the fourth set showed a lot of patience, a lot of really good volleyball,” head coach Joe Sagula said. “I really liked the way we played the fourth set. I thought that was our most dominant set.”
Who stood out?
Phegley led the team with eight blocks and eleven kills. Austin also had a double-double, contributing eleven kills and eleven digs. Mitrovich tallied 28 assists and a pair of aces, which helped UNC tie its season best with aces (seven).
“We had a lot of people contribute to the match today,” Sagula said. “I think there might have been only one person who didn’t play, so it was certainly a big team effort.”
When was it decided?
Coming off of a win in the third set, the Tar Heels put the match away in the fourth set when they went on a four-point run with three consecutive kills and a block to end the set.
“The third set was back-and-forth. We were up 24-23,” Sagula said. “I was thinking anyone could win that set. In the fourth set, when we went up 12-7, I felt like we were really in control of that set. We were siding out well, I thought that our defense had picked up, and they weren’t scoring easily like they had in the previous two sets.”
Why does it matter?
This victory was the first time this season that UNC won both of their matches in the same weekend. Going into the third set 1-1 gave the Tar Heels something to work for, and with this win under their belt, they will be entering the last two games of the season on a positive note.
“I thought N.C. State played a really good second set and fought hard, and that really challenged us," Sagula said. "Winning this match, we had to work hard for it, and they didn’t just fall apart, they kept fighting. I’m really proud of how we played, because N.C. State brought their level up.”
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will face Virginia in Chapel Hill on Oct. 31 at 5 pm.
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