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Wednesday September 28th

UNC volleyball defeats Old Dominion, 3-1, in its first match of VCU Invitational

First-year libero Maddy May (25) bumps the ball over the net. UNC beat Arizona 3-2 at home on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.
Buy Photos First-year libero Maddy May (25) bumps the ball over the net. UNC beat Arizona 3-2 at home on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

The North Carolina volleyball team 6-3, 0-0) defeated Old Dominion (4-7, 0-0) 3-1  in the Tar Heels’ first matchup of the VCU Invitational.

What happened?

UNC got out to a 10-5 lead early in the first set thanks to two services aces from first-year libero Maddy May and several Monarch errors during that stretch. UNC went on a 6-2 run during to extend its lead to 19-10, as graduate outside hitter Charley Niego and junior outside hitter Aziah Buckner led the way for the Tar Heels with two kills each during that stretch. The Monarchs made a respectable comeback attempt, going on an 8-6 run to end the set, but the Tar Heels’ lead was too much to overcome, as UNC won the set 25-19. 

The second set was tightly contested, as neither team took a lead greater than six points. The Tar Heels lost their early momentum by allowing the Monarchs to score six unanswered points and take a 20-14 lead. UNC nearly made a comeback, as Aziah Buckner scored five kills after the Monarchs’ 6-0 run to help the Tar Heels trim Old Dominion’s lead to just 23-21. However, two costly errors doomed the Tar Heels’ comeback attempt and gave the Monarchs a 25-21 second-set victory. 

An all-around team effort helped UNC get out to a seven-point lead early in the third set. The Monarchs quickly chipped away at UNC’s lead until the score was knotted up at 15-15, urging the Tar Heels to take a timeout. The score remained close until UNC went on a 7-2 run with the score tied at 18 to take a 25-20 third-set victory and set themselves up to win the match in a decisive fourth set.  

Neither team could separate themselves from the other early in the fourth set, as both the Tar Heels and Monarchs were incapable of taking more than a four-point lead until about midway through the set. Despite committing three errors after taking the 21-15 advantage, the Tar Heels were able to hold onto their lead and take a decisive 25-19 fourth-set victory, winning the match 3-1. 

Who stood out? 

Outside hitters Buckner and Niego made their presence felt in this match, as Buckner registered a game-high 18 kills and Niego tallied 16. Buckner and Niego also contributed seven and ten digs respectively in the Tar Heels’ winning effort over the Monarchs. 

Libero May also had a significant impact on the outcome of this match, committing a game-high 18 digs while also contributing four service aces. 

When was it decided?

The match’s outcome was in limbo until the waning moments of the fourth set, as the Monarchs had a legitimate shot at making a comeback attempt to force a fifth set, especially with the Tar Heels' three late errors. UNC clung to its lead and took a 25-19 fourth-set victory and 3-1 match victory.  

Why does it matter?

Aside from giving the Tar Heels their sixth win of the season, performances from May and Buckner are further early indicators that the two could make significant contributions to the team this season. 

Buckner, who didn’t play last season as a redshirt, continues to flash the potential she did in her first-year season so far this fall. If she can continue to contribute at this clip, she’ll be a key part of helping fill the void left by the departures of outside hitters Nia Robinson and Emily Zinger. 

May continues to show her worth during the early part of this season, indicating she can make an immediate impact as a first-year and be a quality successor to senior libero Karenna Wurl. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels’ next matchup is Friday, September 16, at 6 p.m. against VCU in UNC’s second match of the VCU Invitational. 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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