The North Carolina volleyball team (20-7, 9-7 ACC) was in Charlottesville, Va. on Sunday afternoon and defeated the Virginia Cavaliers (8-18, 1-15 ACC) in straight sets, 3-0.
UNC started the match strong. After going down 2-0 early in the first set, the Tar Heels quickly built a lead by winning five points in a row to go up, 5-2. During this stretch, first-year outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster contributed her first two kills of the match, and did so on consecutive points.
Much of the first set was touch-and-go from this point, until the Tar Heels kept the ball on their serve for five points in a row once again. This momentum allowed them to pull away and eventually take a 1-0 match lead via a 25-17 first set win, with the set point coming off of another Shaffmaster kill.
The second set remained close until the Tar Heels took a 12-11 lead.At this point, UNC capitalized on two kills in a row from sophomore middle hitter Kaya Merkler in the middle of a five-point run which put the team up, 17-11. The Tar Heels clung to this lead for the remainder of the second set and won set point on yet another kill from Shaffmaster, which led to another 25-17 set victory.
Unlike the first two sets, UNC took an immediate lead in the third set. Sophomore libero Olivia Diaz contributed three service aces in building the Tar Heels’ 5-0 advantage. This lead proved to be enough to take the deciding set, as North Carolina never led by less than five from this point on. Just like the previous two, UNC took the third set by way of a kill, this time by Merkler. The Tar Heels took the third set, 25-11, to complete the victory.
Who stood out?
Graduate setter Meghan Neelon led the match with 26 assists, connecting with Shaffmaster and Merkler on many occasions for 14 and eight kills, respectively. Senior middle hitter Amanda Phegley had seven kills and graduate outside hitter Nia Robinson had six.
Defensively, junior libero Karenna Wurl led the match with 13 digs, out of 31 total for North Carolina.
When was it decided?
After they took a two-set lead, the match seemed very likely to end in the Tar Heels’ favor. Despite such a positive outlook, UNC avoided complacency and ensured their win by taking an early lead in a third set which ended up being its most decisive of the afternoon.
Why does it matter?
This win should give North Carolina a confidence boost entering a match against the Miami Hurricanes, who beat UNC earlier this year in one of the Tar Heels’ closest matches of the season.
North Carolina ranked 27th in the most recent NCAA RPI poll, and will look to strengthen its resume in their final two matches of the season to potentially reach its first NCAA Tournament since 2016.
When do they play next?
UNC will head back to Carmichael Arena on Sunday to take on Miami on senior day. The game will begin at 1 p.m.
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