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Wednesday December 7th

First-year Anita Babic's 36 assists lead UNC volleyball to 3-0 sweep of Boston College

UNC graduate Charley Niego (5) spikes a ball early in the first set of the volleyball match against Boston College on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. UNC beat Boston College 3-0.
Buy Photos UNC graduate Charley Niego (5) spikes a ball early in the first set of the volleyball match against Boston College on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. UNC beat Boston College 3-0.

The North Carolina volleyball team (11-7, 3-4 ACC) defeated Boston College (13-8, 1-6 ACC), 3-0, in Carmichael Arena on Friday evening.

What happened?

Kills from UNC junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler and graduate outside hitter Charley Niego, along with a Merkler ace helped the Tar Heels jump out to an early 9-5 lead in the first set. Niego and Merkler continued to power the offense, with sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster starting to heat up midway through the set.

A 5-0 run backed by four consecutive kills from first-year middle hitter Liv Mogridge and Shaffmaster helped North Carolina close out a dominant first set, 25-15.

The Eagles entered the second set with renewed aggression, jumping out to a 6-1 lead. When the lead ballooned to 12-5, North Carolina head coach Joe Sagula called a timeout. Upon the break, Shaffmaster had a highlight sequence of a powerful left side spike, followed immediately by a left side block.

After Shaffmaster’s spark, the Tar Heels began to rally back. First-year setter Anita Babic registered two service aces en route to an 8-1 scoring run that had the set tied up at 13-13. The Tar Heels and the Eagles traded short runs until the set was tied at 19 points apiece. From there, first-year libero Carson Overbeck had a service ace, followed by kills from Shaffmaster and Mogridge to take a tightly-contested second set, 25-21.

Much like the first set, the Tar Heels took a commanding 13-6 lead to start the final set, driven by kills from each of North Carolina’s starters, along with another Overbeck service ace. Secondary rotation players also had the opportunity to shine, with senior middle hitter Skyy Howard and first-year outside hitter Ava Swain chipping in kills late in the third set.

At match point, the Eagles strung together a short-lived 3-0 scoring run, but it was not enough to erase the nine-point deficit UNC had built. The Tar Heels completed their sweep in straight sets by winning the final set, 25-18.

Who stood out?

Babic dominated the match with a game-high 36 assists — more than the entire Boston College roster combined.

First-year middle hitter Sadie Swift, Mogridge and Merkler displayed a strong defensive performance, combining for 12 blocks. In the back line, senior outside hitter Parker Austin and first-year libero Maddy May combined for a team-high 24 digs.

When was it decided?

After regaining momentum early in the second set to erase an 11-5 deficit, North Carolina took a commanding 2-0 set lead. The hot-handed Tar Heels continued to click on all cylinders heading into the third set — from there, they never looked back.

From a physical standpoint, it seemed that the Tar Heels simply played at a stronger, faster pace than the Eagles. With taller UNC players blocking on the front line, Boston College struggled throughout the match to sustain an aggressive attack.

Statistically, North Carolina’s hitting percentage more than doubled that of Boston College’s. Defensively, the Tar Heels had significantly more digs and blocks than the Eagles.

Why does it matter?

After snapping a three-game losing skid with a 3-1 road win over Virginia Tech last Sunday, another ACC win has the team headed in the right direction for improving its conference ranking.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will take on Syracuse this Sunday in Carmichael Arena at 3 p.m.

@danielhwei

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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