Calm, cool and collected.
With over 2,000 people watching from the stands of Carmichael Arena, the composed and experienced Michigan volleyball team dealt North Carolina its first home loss of the season Saturday night with a 3-0 sweep.
Backed by a veteran front line in Jess Mruzik and Jess Robinson to go with seasoned setters in Scottee Johnson and Maddie Dowd, the Wolverines were visibly locked in from the very first point.
Coming off a narrow 3-1 loss at Duke the previous night — Michigan’s first of the season — the Wolverines’ unwavering focus seemed to affect UNC’s usual youthful energy.
“We played to (Michigan’s) flat energy, which they can thrive off of,” senior middle hitter Skyy Howard said. “But that’s not how we play.”
To hear any player tell it — be it junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler or sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster — the Tar Heels play their best volleyball when they’re happy.
But Saturday night was an example of North Carolina’s lack of energy and experience affecting its cohesion. Miscommunication after miscommunication and one service error after another led to the Tar Heels quickly finding themselves down two sets to none after narrowly dropping the second set 26-24.
“We could’ve played more as a team and communicated more,” first-year setter Anita Babic said. “We could’ve kept the energy up.”
Still, UNC tried to keep pace with Michigan. But right after graduate outside hitter Charley Niego registered her seventh and final kill of the night, igniting the home crowd, first-year libero Maddy May committed a service error and Michigan held onto a firm 22-19 lead in the third set.