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Wednesday September 28th

UNC volleyball picks up 3-0 win over VCU in the VCU Invitational

UNC junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler (14) hits the ball over the net during the volleyball match against Michigan State on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, at Carmichael Arena.  UNC beat Michigan State 3-0.
Buy Photos UNC junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler (14) hits the ball over the net during the volleyball match against Michigan State on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, at Carmichael Arena.  UNC beat Michigan State 3-0.

The North Carolina volleyball team (7-3, 0-0) defeated VCU (5-6, 0-0), 3-0, in the Tar Heels’ second of three matches in the VCU Invitational.

What happened?

The Tar Heels started the match by scoring four unanswered points in the first set. VCU then narrowed the lead before UNC reclaimed a four-point edge later in the set. Shortly after their 4-0 run, the Tar Heels put together a team effort that fueled them during a 5-0 run, giving them a 17-9 advantage over the Rams. The remainder of the set remained competitive, as UNC scored just one more point than the Rams during that stretch, which gave them a 25-17 first-set victory. 

Continued team play and effort helped UNC get out to another hot start in the second set, as the Tar Heels scored six unanswered points and began the second set on a 9-3 run. The Rams trimmed the Tar Heels’ lead and drew to within two points of North Carolina after scoring points of their own and capitalizing on several UNC errors. UNC responded by scoring seven unanswered points — the Tar Heels’ biggest point-scoring run of the set — to give them a commanding 22-13 edge on the Rams. Still, UNC held onto its lead and took a 25-18 second-set victory.  

Junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler led the way for the Tar Heels in the match’s final set, accounting for nearly a third of the Tar Heels’ third-set points in kills alone. UNC never trailed in this set, but VCU kept the game competitive by mostly staying within two or three points of the Tar Heels’ lead. It looked like the Tar Heels might be headed for a fourth set when they gave up a 4-0 run to VCU late in the set, allowing the Rams to trim the lead to 21-20. UNC held on, however, and won the set 25-23 and the match 3-0. 

Who stood out? 

UNC’s performance against VCU was one of the more well-rounded team efforts the Tar Heels have put together this season, but Merkler’s seven-kill third set stands out among the rest of the team’s performances. Merkler’s seven kills in the set are just nine kills away from her career high of 16 kills in a game, which she recorded against Syracuse last season.  

First-year libero Maddy May continues to impress early this season after a strong outing in the Tar Heels’ first match of the VCU Invitational against Old Dominion, as she tallied 18 digs against the Rams, just one dig shy of her career high.  

When was it decided?

UNC never trailed in this match and appeared dominant throughout it. If there were any questions regarding which team would win, those were likely all answered by the Tar Heels’ 6-0 and 7-0 runs during the second set. 

Why does it matter?

The win gives UNC its seventh of the season and its second of the VCU Invitational, but also demonstrates some areas they’ll likely need to improve upon before heading into ACC play. 

One area that stands out is serving, as the Tar Heels had eight service errors compared to VCU’s four. UNC also recorded six service errors in its matchup with Old Dominion in the team’s first game of the invitational. UNC likely won’t be able to maintain its success giving up that many service errors points to ACC opponents. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels’ next game is Saturday, September 17, at 3 p.m. against UMBC. 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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