The North Carolina volleyball team picked up its first win of the season on Saturday afternoon, sweeping UC Santa Barbara in three sets at the Northern Colorado Tournament.
The first set began as a back-and-forth affair, but USCB then took control to build a 17-13 lead. Shortly after, however, UNC built some momentum.
Trailing 18-16, the Tar Heels racked up seven straight points, including three kills from sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster. From there, Shaffmaster added another kill as UNC took the first set, 25-19.
The Tar Heels carried their strong play into the second set and jumped out to a 9-3 lead before the Gauchos began to settle in. Both teams traded the next several points and USCB clawed back to even the score at 14 apiece.
But much like the first set, UNC found a way to respond. With just a one-point lead, the Tar Heels went on a 6-1 run to build a comfortable 23-16 advantage before closing out the set with another 25-19 victory.
Much like the previous sets, the third set was also closely contested with the score deadlocked at 12. Then, Shaffmaster and the UNC's attackers began to take over and stretched the score to 19-13. Despite two straight points from the UCSB, the Tar Heels regained control and came away with a 25-17 win to clinch the sweep.
Who stood out?
When the Tar Heels needed timely points, they found Shaffmaster, and the sophomore from Indiana delivered. The 2021 ACC Freshman of the Year finished the match with 12 kills and a .348 hitting percentage.
UNC was also led by graduate transfer outside hitter Charley Niego, who also wrapped up the match with 12 kills. As a two-time All-ACC First-Team selection at Notre Dame, Niego will look to bring some of her previous success to Chapel Hill this fall.
When was it decided?
Despite coming away with a 3-0 victory, all three sets were equally competitive, as the two teams traded leads for much of the afternoon.
Although winning the first two sets gave the Tar Heels a seemingly comfortable advantage, the match was not secured until the UNC registered its final point thanks to a bad set from UCSB.
Why does it matter?
After dropping the tournament opener to Colorado State, the win gives the Tar Heels their first victory of the season. For a team that returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2021 after a five-year hiatus, UNC will look to carry this momentum into the remainder of non-conference play before the start of a challenging slate of ACC opponents.
The match also demonstrated the promise of UNC's front line, as Niego and Shaffmaster aim to be one of the best hitting tandems in the conference.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will wrap up the Northern Colorado Tournament on Saturday night with a match against Northern Colorado. The game will begin at 8 p.m.
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