In its third match of the season, the North Carolina volleyball team defeated Duke 3-1 in Carmichael Arena on Friday night. After two weeks off, the Tar Heels came into the game with a 1-1 record after conceding a game to Virginia Tech two weeks ago.
The Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils in four sets. UNC began the first set with some trouble communicating in the back court early on. Duke’s .500 hitting percentage was much stronger compared to UNC’s .387 halfway through the first set. Still, UNC battled its way back to win the first set 26-24.
“So proud of how they fought through that," UNC head coach Joe Sagula said. "Coming back to win the first set was fantastic. It will be something we will remember, especially when it's such a tough team like Duke who is playing well."
The Tar Heels kept up the momentum through the second set to earn a 25-17 win with a total of 15 kills in the second set.
In the third set, there was a back-and-forth dynamic that resulted in Duke climbing out of the 2-0 deficit, 25-20, to force another set. The Tar Heels returned to the court strong and closed out the match, though, winning the fourth set 25-16.
Who stood out?
First-years Aziah Buckner and Kaya Merkler propelled their team to win the first set. Merkler finished the first set with a perfect hitting percent after completing all five of her kill attempts. She also secured two service aces for UNC.
Junior Amanda Phegley and sophomore Carly Peck each made a block at the start of the second set to carry the defense and begin a scoring run for the Tar Heels. Phegley then stepped up to finish out the second set with eight kills on 14 attempts. She also led the team in kills for the night with 13.
The top performer on the defensive end for the Tar Heels included first-year Maylen Mitrovich, who finished with 11 digs.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels recovered quickly and came out strong at the start of the fourth set. They took off on an 10-1 scoring run to close in on the win with a 17-11 lead before a timeout. They kept up the fight coming out of the break to earn a win in the fourth set and defeat their rivals.
Why does it matter?
UNC’s win against Duke sets the stage for Sunday's rematch between the two teams. The players now have confidence going forward that they can beat Duke again using similar tactics that worked for them on Friday night.
“Just coming in with a fresh mindset and realizing that this game doesn’t impact that game,” Karenna Wurl said. “We need to make sure we come out strong and not rely on this win.”
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels face Duke for a second match on Sunday, Oct. 11, in Carmichael Arena at 5:30 p.m.
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