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Wednesday December 7th

UNC volleyball first-year Anita Babic earns back-to-back ACC Freshman of the Week honors

UNC freshman Anita Babic (12) serves during the second set of the volleyball game against Boston College on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. UNC won 3-0.
Buy Photos UNC freshman Anita Babic (12) serves during the second set of the volleyball game against Boston College on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. UNC won 3-0.

Following an exciting weekend for the North Carolina volleyball team with key road wins against rivals N.C. State and Duke, Anita Babic was named ACC Freshman of the Week. She holds this title for the second week in a row.

Babic, a first-year student from Phoenix, has been crucial to the team’s success this season as a setter. Thus far, she has already picked up over 660 assists, highlighted by six games with 40 or more assists — including 42 this past weekend against Duke.

“I think the fact that we had two back-to-back ACC wins against our rivals, really says a lot for the quarterback on the court," head coach Joe Sagula said. "The quarterback on the court is the setter."

Following the loss of primary setter and graduate student Meghan Neelon, as well as three reserve setters Annabelle Archer, Maylen Mitrovich and Emma Reynolds, the team had no returning players at the position — giving Babic a prime opportunity to shine.

“We knew we were going to have a setter come in and play for us quite a bit,” Sagula said.

However, adjusting to playing volleyball at the collegiate level is no easy feat.

“It’s a lot more time management," Babic said. "I mean, obviously, it’s higher stakes because we’re at the collegiate level, but it’s also more fun and the competition is better."

Babic emphasized the support she has received from her teammates, captains and coaches in helping with this transition.

Babic is the second UNC volleyball first-year to be recognized for back-to-back ACC Freshman of the Week honors this season. Libero and defensive specialist Maddy May was named to the honor in the weeks of Sept. 12 and Sept. 19.

Sagula said both Babic and May have done well growing into their positions.

“They were placed in a position on the team to play as 18-year-olds at the highest level against a lot of 19-, 20-, 21-, 22-year-olds,” he said.

Despite this early recognition and success as first-year players, Babic and May remain hungry with no plans to get complacent. The two said their awards and successes are a direct result of their teammates and coaching staff. 

“The way that we’re winning these awards and we’re being praised by the ACC for Freshman of the Week, it’s all due to our teammates and our coaches and how they’re pushing us," Babic said.

May underscored this sentiment. Her and Babic’s positions are extremely reliant on the team’s efforts and performance, she said.

“Especially in Anita and I’s position, I don’t look good unless she makes me look good," May said. "She doesn’t look good unless our hitters make her look good. So truly it really is our teammates, coaches, the entire program supporting us."

There is no doubt that Babic and May’s success has helped the team, much like the team has helped them. They lead the categories of assists and digs, respectively, with May reaching 263 digs this season —54 more than the next-best player.

“I’m very proud for Anita to be recognized,” Sagula said. “The two positions you’re talking about — both the libero and the setter — are the two unsung heroes on the court constantly. They don’t get all the flashy attention.”

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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