The North Carolina volleyball team (3-0) was in Dallas, Texas this afternoon where they defeated the Southern Methodist University Mustangs (2-1) by a score of 3-1 on the final day of the SMU Doubletree Invitational.
SMU claimed the opening set with a narrow 29-27 victory, though the Tar Heels did have six more kills than the mustangs.
North Carolina seemed to carry this offensive momentum into the second set, having five more kills than the opposition, and won 25-15. The score was now even at one, and the 4-0 block margin in UNC’s favor was a sign of defensive improvement from the previous set.
The Mustangs regained some of their offensive spark from the first set, increasing their kills and hitting percentage from the second, but the Tar Heels were able to take a 25-20 victory and a 2-1 set lead in the match.
Despite having fewer kills than their opponent for the first time in the match, North Carolina took the fourth set — and the match — with a 25-17 victory.
Who stood out?
First-year Mabrey Shaffmaster was awarded tournament MVP, which, for her, came as affirmation in more ways than one. “Being from Indiana I didn’t come from close, and the first few weeks of college I didn’t know if I was cut out for it,” Shaffmaster said. “I give all the credit to my teammates for taking me in and being so inclusive at practice, and it of course means a lot to be able to showcase what I can do.”
Shaffmaster led the way for the Tar Heel offense with 17 kills and 18.5 points, and was the beneficiary of quality sets from graduate student Meghan Neelon and senior Annabelle Archer who had 21 and 20 assists, respectively.
Graduate student Emily Zinger anchored UNC’s defense, recording a match-high nine blocks.
When was it decided?
Momentum swings are common in volleyball, and as such, the game truly was not decided until North Carolina took the fourth set.
That said, a turning point occurred after the first set — the only set in which SMU had fewer attack errors. Shaffmaster acknowledged the offensive errors made in the first set, but credited her team’s coalescence in overcoming the deficit.
“We decided to play our game rather than allow them to change who we are, the coaches made a few adjustments and after that it was game over” Shaffmaster said.
Why does it matter?
UNC leaves Texas with an undefeated record, and will look forward to continuing this success amid what will hopefully be a return to normalcy after a COVID-truncated 2020 season.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will be back in Chapel Hill this Friday, September 3rd, when they will meet the Colorado State Rams for a non-conference matchup, the first of three matches in two days for the Tar Heels.
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