The North Carolina volleyball team (6-0) defeated in-state opponent East Carolina (0-3) in three straight sets, continuing its hot start to the 2021 season.
The Tar Heels started the game on fire, jumping out to a commanding 14-4 lead over ECU about halfway through the first set. ECU didn’t back down, however, as they cut the lead to as low as five points. Following this comeback, the Tar Heels held their opponents at bay and ended the set with two straight kills by senior Amanda Phegley to give UNC a 1-0 lead.
The second set was a different story, as UNC found itself on its heels in a rocky start. The Tar Heels fell down 5-1 early after consecutive kills by their opponent, digging themselves a hole they eventually climbed out of later in the set. As a result of an attack error by ECU, UNC was able to even the set at 12, but found itself trading points up until scoring five straight points to secure a 2-0 lead.
The closing set was a wire-to-wire performance for the Tar Heels, as they established an early lead and built on it, leading by as much as 11 points in the third set. Spurts of unanswered points scored — the largest spurt being led by first-year outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster’s three service aces — kept the set out of reach, allowing UNC to close out the match in dominant fashion.
Who stood out?
Graduate transfer Nia Robinson and Phegley had major performances in the Tar Heels’ victory. Robinson played in all three sets and recorded a team high nine kills, two block assists and a team high 11 points.
Phegley led the team in block assists with four, while also recording seven kills and 10 points.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels took control of the match after their second set victory. Although they struggled at the start, the second set proved UNC to be too much to handle for its opponent, as ECU played its best set of the game and still came up short.
UNC took advantage of the momentum going into the third set and applied more pressure on its opponent by not allowing the last set to be competitive.
Why does it matter?
This win continues the undefeated run for the UNC volleyball team, as this is the first time it has opened the season 6-0 since 2016.
This early success is huge for the Tar Heels as it is still early in the season with plenty of time for improvement. This team is centered around its experience from returning players and graduate transfers, therefore, leadership is not an issue for this squad. If they can build on this recent success, expect UNC volleyball to turn some heads in some tough upcoming matches and conference play.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel north to hit the court again Friday, September 10 against Michigan State. The match will start at 7:00 P.M.
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