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The Daily Tar Heel

Large crowd in Carmichael Arena propels UNC volleyball to three-set win over Michigan State

UNC sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster (9) hits the ball during the volleyball match against Michigan State on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, at Carmichael Arena.  UNC beat Michigan State 3-0.

Every time the North Carolina volleyball team has stepped on to the hardwood of Carmichael Arena this year, they’ve won — and Friday’s 3-0 sweep of Michigan State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge was no different.

After starting the season 1-2, the Tar Heels have won four straight games, with three of those victories coming in Chapel Hill.

“It’s home. It’s such a great place to be,” senior outside hitter Parker Austin said. “I have friends and there are families here, and you want to play well for them so they’ll come back and cheer you on again.”

After falling down 5-0 early in the first set to the Spartans, the Tar Heels quickly rebounded with a 4-0 run.

UNC carried this momentum throughout the rest of the set, with more and more plays turning the Tar Heels' way. Soon enough, Michigan State saw its initial lead turn into a 19-11 deficit, as the Carmichael crowd fed off each UNC point.

With each block by junior middle blocker Kaya Merkler and each powerful spike from sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster, the crowd grew louder and louder.

“(Hearing the crowd cheer) makes you feel so good,” Merkler said. “It makes you want to do it again and again. It’s like a little bit of positive reinforcement.”

UNC was able to string together nine different runs of three or more points throughout the match. MSU, on the other hand, was stifled after its five-point run to start the game, only converting three such runs for the rest of the evening. 

After the first serve, Michigan State rarely was able to score again and seemingly became rattled by the noise coming from the North Carolina crowd that surrounded the court. On each Spartan serve, the raucous crowd was there to intimidate the visitors, shouting "dribble, dribble, dribble" with each bounce to the hardwood.

This energy helped the Tar Heels to maintain control throughout the match. After giving up the lead early in the first set, the Spartans did not lead another set until scoring three straight points to open the third. However, the set quickly became a back-and-forth affair, and the two teams were deadlocked at 25 points apiece.

But using the crowd to their advantage, the Tar Heels rallied to fend off a Spartan set point with three points of their own to clinch a 29-27 third set win.

North Carolina's resiliency, both coming back from a 5-0 deficit in the beginning of the first set as well as withstanding the Spartans' late push, has been a strength for the team this year.

“Most of the time when we’re down, it’s our fault because of a bunch of errors (that) we’ve made,” Shaffmaster said. “We always focus on playing clean after that because chaos breeds chaos most of the time, so we concentrate on being calm.”

The Tar Heels will turn right back around and play Michigan on Saturday, a team UNC defeated in a gritty 3-2 win last year, in their second and final game of that season's ACC-Big Ten Challenge. 

According to Shaffmaster, what it’ll take to keep their undefeated home record is having everyone on the same page.

“We definitely need to play together," she said. "We play our best when we’re happy and playing because we love the game.”


@dthsports |

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