The North Carolina volleyball team (4-0) played in their first of three games this holiday weekend against Colorado State (0-3). The Tar Heels defeated the Rams in an extremely close game, winning three sets to two.
The Rams won the first set 25-21 despite the Tar Heels’ efforts in the beginning. with graduate outside hitter Nia Parker-Robinson leading the team with three kills in a row early on. UNC looked to finally ace the Rams in the next set to help secure a victory.
After the second set, Colorado State topped the Tar Heels 25-19, ending with back-to-back aces to lead in sets 2-0. First-year outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster had three kills, but it was not enough to secure the large gap that North Carolina needed.
In the third set, UNC switched things up to give itself a 25-16 victory, cutting the CSU advantage to 2-1. The team's energy was electric right off the bat and with senior middle hitter Amanda Phegley entering the game, the Tar Heels fulfilled their expectations. Parker-Robinson maintained her energy throughout the third set, taking control of the period and giving her teammates the confidence it needed to win the set.
UNC and Colorado State battled to capture the fourth set. It continued to go back and forth until UNC stepped up and used its momentum from the third set to force a fifth set. They won the set 25-23.
After a heightened effort given from both teams, as well as extra points in the fifth set, the Tar Heels defeated the Rams 17-15 to secure the win.
Who stood out?
UNC volleyball coach Joe Sagula said, “I have to give credit to Meghan Neelon and Nia Parker-Robinson who demonstrated unbelievable leadership.”
In addition, Sagula praised sophomore middle hitter Kaya Merkler for her performance.
"[Merkler] was unbelievable and when she is on watch out, I can tell you Kaya Merkler was a game changer and difference maker. She was the difference,” Sagula said.
He believes that “it was a great team effort across the board”.
When was it decided?
From the opening set, it was apparent that the Tar Heels were not comfortable when serving. After the first two sets, UNC had just one ace compared to the Rams' seven. The team stepped up after the second set and were on a roll.
Coach Sagula told the UNC volleyball team going into the third set to stay true to its identity and get back in the game.
"I thought we started getting angry at ourselves," Sagula said. "It was a waste of energy and we needed to stay with the game plan.”
He also added the team's efforts to climb out of the 2-0 deficit carried UNC for the remainder of the evening.
“The third set getting off to a big lead helped maintain confidence,” Sagula added.
Why does it matter?
UNC previously lost to Colorado State 3-0 when they last met in Chapel Hill on Sept. 12, 2009. The undefeated Tar Heels continue to stay victorious going into its weekend doubleheader, beginning Saturday at noon.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will be back in action tomorrow in Chapel Hill, where they face off against Wofford College and East Carolina University. The team hopes to maintain their winning streak as it goes into next week.
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