The previously undefeated North Carolina volleyball team (11-1, 0-1 ACC) suffered its first loss of the season in a 3-1 defeat to No. 4 Pittsburgh (11-0, 1-0 ACC) on Friday night.
The match between the two unbeaten teams served as an essential game for the Tar Heels, who are fighting to secure a spot in the top 25.
The two teams proved to be relatively evenly matched. North Carolina put up a strong fight in the first set, but the Panthers were able to pull ahead quickly and won the set, 25-17. The Tar Heels came out ready to redeem themselves in the second set, scoring the first three points. This set remained far closer than the first, but Pittsburgh was still able to secure a 25-20 win.
It was “do or die'' for the Tar Heels in the third set. UNC scored the first six points of the set, but as demonstrated in the second set, scoring the first several points wouldn’t guarantee a victory. However, this set had a different outcome than the one that preceded it. North Carolina led the entire set and dominated its way to a 25-9 win.
UNC knew its back was against the wall in the fourth set. The team was able to keep the score very close, but ultimately lost, 25-21. Tonight’s 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh ended an 11-game winning streak and an undefeated season for the Tar Heels.
Who stood out?
Despite the loss, North Carolina was able to hold its own against the No. 4 Panthers, which was highlighted by the production of several key players.
First-year outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster led the team in kills, attacks and points. She recorded a total of 15 kills, 39 attacks and 15.5 points. Graduate student outside hitter Nia Robinson wasn’t far behind her in any of these statistics, and junior libero Karenna Wurl led the team in digs with 14.
Although UNC was unable to pull out a win against Pittsburgh, certain team members allowed them to show that they can hang with top-ranked teams.
When was it decided?
Things began looking grim for the Tar Heels after they were defeated by Pittsburgh in the first two sets, but they came out to the third set with a new energy that made it clear that this game wasn’t yet decided. However, they were unable to carry this energy into the fourth set to the same extent, which allowed the Panthers to walk away with the win in Friday night’s game.
Why does it matter?
The game was essential to North Carolina’s national recognition as a top team. Although the Tar Heels had already defeated 11 other teams prior to this game, their skill was put to the test on Friday night.
UNC was unable to preserve its perfect season when facing a top-ranked team. The Tar Heels will not be given a chance to demonstrate their abilities against a ranked team again until their Oct. 29 matchup at No. 18 Georgia Tech.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will have the home advantage for their next matchup against Virginia on Sunday.
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