The North Carolina volleyball team defeated its rival Duke 3-1 to go undefeated during its weekend slate, beating two in-state rivals in critical ACC matches.
Spearheaded by sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster’s two services aces, the Tar Heels quickly jumped out to a 4-0 first-set lead, prompting a Duke timeout. After the timeout break, the Blue Devils slowly chipped away at UNC’s lead until tying the set at 10.
The Tar Heels gradually grew their lead from that point, as a pair of kills from senior middle hitter Skyy Howard and graduate outside hitter Charley Niego helped give the Tar Heels a commanding 21-16 advantage that forced another Duke timeout. Momentum seemed to shift Duke’s way after the timeout, however, as UNC’s commanding five-point lead dwindled to just two with the score at 24-22. The Tar Heels managed to hang on for the win, despite the Blue Devils’ furious comeback attempt to win the set 25-23.
The second set was tightly contested until Duke went on a 7-2 scoring run with the score tied at six, putting the Tar Heels in a five-point hole. UNC struggled to trim the Blue Devils’ lead and allowed Duke to go on a 5-2 run late in the set to fall into a 20-15 deficit, urging the Tar Heels’ coaching staff to call a timeout. UNC couldn’t dig itself out of the deficit and lost the set 25-18.
Four early kills by Niego set the tone for the Tar Heels in the third set and propelled UNC to a 10-5 lead, forcing a Blue Devils timeout. While UNC continued to make plays, especially blocks at the net, the Tar Heels extended their lead mostly thanks to a series of errors by the Blue Devils. Despite a late 5-1 run by Duke, UNC was able to capitalize on the Blue Devils’ sloppy play by winning the set 25-20 to take a 2-1 match advantage.
UNC got out to yet another dominant start by taking a commanding 11-4 lead behind the efforts of first-year middle hitter Liv Mogridge, who contributed three kills and a block assist during the Tar Heels’ early fourth-set outburst.
North Carolina held on to its lead, as Shaffmaster contributed two kills and a service ace after Duke cut UNC’s lead to three en route to a 25-19 fourth-set victory.
Who stood out?
Standout first-year libero Maddy May had yet another impressive outing in her young career as a Tar Heel. May contributed several critical plays, such as an acrobatic dig late in the first set that set up a score that extended UNC’s lead to five. May finished the match with 11 digs.
When was it decided?
After taking a commanding 11-4 lead in the fourth set with a 2-1 match lead, Shaffmaster put the final nail in the Blue Devils’ coffin with a pinpoint service ace just inside the visiting team’s sideline, lifting the Tar Heels to a 24-19 lead.
Why does it matter?
Outside of beating its top rival, this victory is pivotal for UNC’s standing in the ACC. A loss to the Blue Devils would’ve had ripple effects that put the Tar Heels near the bottom of the conference standings. Instead, the Tar Heels put themselves in a position to surpass N.C. State in the standings and potential draw within a game of Miami and Florida State’s hold on the fifth and sixth spots.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels host Georgia Tech on Friday, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m.
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