Following a strong 3-0 victory vs. Elon on Tuesday, the North Carolina volleyball team (10-0) remained unbeaten, defeating the UNC Charlotte 49ers (7-4) in three sets on Friday night at Carmichael Arena.
The Tar Heels started off slow in the first set, allowing UNC Charlotte to get two kills in a row and jump out to a 2-0 lead. Although UNC trailed 8-6 in the set, they ramped up the intensity and communication to finish the set strong en route to a 25-20 victory.
Going into the second set, UNC showed clear improvement. An early 2-0 lead eventually tightened to 5-4 after a kill from Charlotte, but that point sparked something in the Tar Heels. Following the Charlotte kill, six different Tar Heels — including Emily Zinger and Nia Robinson — got kills in just seven points, pushing the score to 11-5.
This momentum continued as the team improved their lead to a 10-point margin when sophomore Kaya Merkler got an ace to make the score 17-7. The Tar Heels continued to communicate well throughout the set eventually to eventually coast to a 25-17 win, their largest margin of victory in the match.
UNC’s third set proved to be a continuation of their dominance throughout the match, evident it its 25-20 win. Though the team started off slow with UNC Charlotte getting a kill to move the score to 13-11, the Tar Heels stayed focused, later building a lead and winning the set by five points.
Who stood out?
Graduate transfer Nia Robinson continued her successes from earlier in the week. Robinson had an impressive 14 kills against Elon and had another 13 kills tonight.
Robinson notched five kills in the third set alone, including three in a close rally that eventually gave the Tar Heels a 20-17 lead going into the final stages of the match.
Merkler also had an outstanding night with five kills and a hit percentage of 44.4 percent. She currently holds the highest hit percentage in the ACC.
When was it decided?
UNC’s performance in the second set sealed its victory on Friday night. Although the team had a few errors and miscommunications that led to a slow start to the first set, the Tar Heels opened and ended the second set strong, ultimately winning by a decisive nine-point margin. The team used this momentum as they finished up the third set strong to win the match.
Why does it matter?
Last weekend, the Tar Heels had a close, hard-fought victory against Michigan where it took all five sets to determine their 3-2 win. With 3-0 victories vs. Elon and UNC Charlotte this week, the team will look to use the momentum as it takes on tougher teams. With an undefeated record, having stronger communication and getting off to faster starts will be key, when facing these competitive opponents.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will look to extend their winning streak as they take on the Davidson Wildcats at 4 p.m. Saturday in Carmichael Arena. North Carolina will then play No. 4 Pittsburgh at home next Friday.
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