The North Carolina volleyball team ended the Northern Colorado Tournament with a 3-0 loss to Northern Colorado on Saturday evening.
The Tar Heels got off to a slow start early in the first set and fell into a 6-1 deficit. After UNC slightly closed the gap, Northern Colorado scored five straight points to build a 13-4 advantage. North Carolina then responded with four straight points of its own, but the Bears regained momentum and went on a 5-0 run to lead 18-8.
The Bears wrapped up the remainder of the set with solid play to seal a 25-11 win. The Tar Heels struggled to create any type of offensive consistency, and finished the opening set with a hitting percentage of zero.
UNC showed more promise at the start of the second set. Strong attacking from sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster kept the Tar Heels in the contest, as the team only trailed by one through the first 15 points.
After staying close early, the Tar Heels lost their edge shortly after. The Bears went on a 6-1 run to go up 17-9 and build a wide lead. North Carolina later trimmed the deficit to two with a late run, but Northern Colorado pulled away in the end to wrap up its 25-21 victory.
In the third set, the Tar Heels experienced many of the same struggles as the first set. The Bears were aggressive coming out of the break and set the tone by creating a 14-5 advantage. UNC capitalized on two attack errors to earn some points, but Northern Colorado scored the last five points of the set to secure the sweep with a 25-12 win.
Who stood out?
On a night when offense was tough to come by, graduate transfer outside hitter Charley Niego was the team's most productive attacker. She finished the match with eight kills — the second-most on the team — and racked them up with an efficient .273 hitting percentage.
Shaffmaster led the team with nine kills, but committed eight hitting errors en route to a .033 hitting percentage. First-year Maddy May played libero in all three sets and ended the night with seven digs.
When was it decided?
In its second game of the day, North Carolina found itself in an early hole and couldn't dig its way out. The team faced large deficits in each of the three sets, posing a challenging route to victory.
Why does it matter?
After opening the 2021 season with 11 straight victories, the loss drops the Tar Heels to 1-2 on the new season.
For a team that broke its five-year NCAA Tournament drought last year, the slow start may serve as a bit of a surprise, but the Tar Heels will look to use this early-season experience against quality opponents to build a foundation for the rest of the schedule.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will return to Chapel Hill on Friday to take on South Carolina in Carmichael Arena. The season home opener will begin at 6:30 p.m.
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