The North Carolina volleyball team (16-4, 5-4 ACC) defeated N.C. State (11-9, 5-4 ACC) in four sets on Wednesday in Carmichael Arena.
UNC started the first set by scoring nine unanswered points and forcing two Wolfpack timeouts. The Tar Heels let the Wolfpack creep back into the set, and at one point, the Wolfpack went on a 5-2 run to trim the UNC lead to seven. The Tar Heels responded by going on a 6-1 run, effectively putting the set out of reach for the Wolfpack trailing 21-9. UNC won the first set, 25-11, by finishing with a 4-1 run.
The second set was tightly contested. Neither team took more than a two-point lead until near the end of the set when N.C. State took a 24-21 lead. With their backs against the wall, the Wolfpack opened the door for a last-second UNC comeback effort by committing a service error to make the score 24-22, but the Tar Heels weren’t able to capitalize as first-year outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster committed a costly attack error to give the Wolfpack a 25-22 second-set victory.
The Tar Heels maintained a substantial lead throughout their dominant performance in the third set. UNC went on a 4-1 run early in the set, forcing a Wolfpack timeout. After the break, the Tar Heels extended their lead to eight, which urged N.C. State to call another timeout down 13-5.
The Wolfpack looked like they might make a comeback when they trimmed the UNC lead down to 16-9, but the Tar Heels nixed any N.C. State comeback hopes by going on a 5-1 run that put them up 21-10. UNC closed the set out with a 25-12 victory.
The fourth set was another back-and-forth, tightly-contested set. Neither team led by more than two until first-year libero Marissa Meyerhoefer scored on a service ace to give the Tar Heels a 24-21 lead. UNC closed the match out with a 25-22 fourth set win.
Who stood out?
Shaffmaster registered a game-high 19 kills in addition to her 11 digs and two blocks. Graduate students and outside hitters Nia Robinson and Emily Zinger also had strong outings, as they had 14 and 12 kills, respectively, and one block each.
Junior libero Karenna Wurl spearheaded the Tar Heels’ strong defense that held the Wolfpack to 11 and 12 point sets by getting a game-high 25 digs. Senior middle hitter Amanda Phegley also contributed 13 digs.
When was it decided?
Winning the third set was certainly a crucial moment in the match because it put pressure on N.C. State and made it a must win set for the Wolfpack. N.C. State’s error-riddled play in the fourth set reflected this pressure and played a significant role in UNC winning the set and ultimately the match.
The most decisive moment of the match was when the Tar Heels went up 24-21 in the fourth set with a 2-1 set lead. At that point, the Wolfpack’s chances of forcing a fifth set were slim.
Why does it matter?
After dropping their first four conference games of the season, the Tar Heels had a thin margin of error and needed to pick up wins to keep up with the rest of the ACC. This marks UNC’s fifth straight win against a conference opponent.
The win moved the Tar Heels up one spot in the ACC standings ahead of N.C. State, but it also puts them in position to continue to climb up the rankings.
Florida State and Notre Dame sit slightly ahead of UNC in the ACC standings. While the Tar Heels have the struggling Duke Blue Devils next up on their schedule, the Irish have No. 4 Pittsburgh up next, which could help UNC pass Notre Dame in the conference rankings.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels take on Duke at home in their next match on Friday at 6 p.m.
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