The North Carolina volleyball team (8-3, 0-0 ACC) finished the VCU Invitational with a 3-0 sweep over UMBC (5-5, 0-0 American East) on Saturday at Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.
UMBC started the first set off strong with a 3-1 run before UNC responded with a 3-1 run of their own. Later in the first set, both teams struggled to get any sort of separation.
UMBC took a narrow 13-12 lead before a timeout from North Carolina head coach Joe Sagula. The Tar Heels proceeded to go on a 3-0 run coming out of the timeout to take a 15-13 lead.
For the rest of the set, UNC and UMBC engaged in a back-and-forth battle with neither team able to get a run of more than two points. The Tar Heels finally sealed the first set with two-straight kills from sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster to win 25-23.
UMBC again had the first punch in the second set, getting out to a 4-1 lead, but this set was mostly dominated by the Tar Heels. UMBC began to try to rally back late in the set, but UNC refused to give up any ground and pulled away to win the second set, 25-18.
UNC continued its domination in the third set with a 10-3 lead to start, spearheaded by four kills from graduate outside hitter Charley Niego. UMBC was able to get within three points a couple of times, but with each UMBC run, UNC was able to pull back away, including a 6-0 run to close out the game and win the third set.
Who stood out?
The trio of junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler, Niego and Shaffmaster stood out on Saturday. Merkler and Niego had nine kills each while Shaffmaster had 15.
First-year setter Anita Babic continued her superb start to her UNC career, tallying 32 assists in the game.
When was it decided?
The game was decided at the beginning of the third set when UNC got out to a 9-2 lead. Although UMBC was able to get close to UNC, the momentum that the Tar Heels had built up at that point was far too much for the Retrievers to overcome.
Why does it matter?
The win in the final game of the VCU Invitational means that the Tar Heels will be on a three-game win streak heading into the beginning of the ACC schedule, giving the Tar Heels some much-needed momentum.
When do they play next?
After the trio of wins in Richmond, the Tar Heels will travel to Pennsylvania to play No. 12 Pittsburgh Panthers on Friday to start conference play.
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