Coming off its first loss of the season Friday, the North Carolina volleyball team (11-2, 0-2 ACC) fell to Virginia (8-4, 1-1 ACC) in four sets on Sunday.
After UNC graduate student Meghan Neelon scored the first point of the match, the two teams traded points for much of the set. Neither team led by more than four points until Virginia scored three consecutive points followed by a setting error by UNC to bring the score to 15-11. Kills by graduate students Emily Zinger and Nia Robinson kept the pressure up, but the Cavaliers presented strong offense and forced errors on UNC. Virginia came out on top 25-17 in the first set.
The Tar Heels opened the second set with back-to-back kills by senior Amanda Phegley and Zinger, but Virginia responded with three consecutive kills and a block. UNC found some momentum, with first-year Mabrey Shaffmaster registering two consecutive kills and Zinger and sophomore Kaya Merkler hitting kills to secure a three point lead. After another set of kills by Shaffmaster and errors on Virginia, UNC increased its lead to six. The Tar Heels kept their lead for the rest of the set, finishing 25-15.
The third set opened much like the first, with the teams going back-and-forth trading points. Consecutive kills by Shaffmaster followed by an ace from senior Ryan Shannon broke the ice, putting UNC up 7-5. The teams stayed within three points of each other until kills by Zinger and Shaffmaster put UNC up 15-11. Virginia came within one point three times near the end, but each time, graduate student Nia Robinson responded with a kill to keep UNC in the lead. The Cavaliers tied the game at 22, and eventually took the lead 26-24 to win the third set.
The Tar Heels knew what needed to be done in the fourth set. Zinger and Shaffmaster each opened the set with a pair of kills, but the teams remained pretty evenly matched. After being tied at 12, Virginia pulled away with a pair of kills and an attack error on UNC. Kills by Zinger and Merkler kept UNC within reach, but UVA pushed a four point lead, forcing UNC to call a timeout, down 20-16. Coming out of the timeout, junior Parker Austin and Zinger each had a kill, putting them within two points of the lead. The Tar Heels could not stop Virginia, though, and dropped the fourth set 25-21.
Who stood out?
Shaffmaster had a strong offensive game, registering the most kills on the team with 16. She was aggressive at the net, with 51 attempts, but also contributed on defense with nine digs and a block.
Zinger was also an asset on offense. She had the highest hitting percentage on the team, with .550, and she tallied the most blocks on the team, with four.
When was it decided?
The game was up for grabs until the very end of the fourth set. After going down on a close third set, the Tar Heels entered the fourth set with high energy, but they struggled to put a damper on Virginia’s momentum. After a service error by UNC put the Tar Heels down 23-21, UVA was in a good position to finish out the game.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels had been undefeated until their loss to Pitt on Friday. Two losses in one weekend could be a lurking sign of trouble heading in to their next match, or it could give them the momentum they need to come out with a vengeance and regain control of the season. This loss will put UNC at the bottom of the ACC rankings.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on the Hurricanes in Miami on Friday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m.
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