After impressive second and fourth set wins, the North Carolina Tar Heels volleyball team (9-5, 1-3 ACC) lost 3-2 to the Florida State Seminoles (10-5, 3-2 ACC) in Carmichael Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The Tar Heels jumped out to an early 8-6 lead, but the Seminoles quickly settled in to take control of the first set. An 8-2 scoring run pushed Florida State's lead to four, and the Seminoles used this momentum to coast to a relatively comfortable 25-17 win in the opening set.
Florida State built an early lead in the second set before UNC erupted by scoring nine straight points to go up 14-6. Although the team would blow that lead and the Seminoles even had a chance to take the set by leading 24-23, the Tar Heels responded with timely kills to put the team ahead before sneaking by with a 27-25 win.
The third set was a 25-22 loss, followed by a close 26-24 fourth set win. Shaffmaster also played a large role in the tiebreaker points of the fourth set, giving the Tar Heels the lead on four different occasions. Late in the set, senior middle hitter Skyy Howard broke the tie with a kill to even up the match at two sets apiece.
Ultimately, the Tar Heels' comeback bid fell short in the fifth and final set, as the team fell to the Seminoles, 15-5. FSU’s seven kills in the last set, along with a errors from the Tar Heels, culminated in the loss.
Who stood out?
First-year libero Maddy May had an impressive showing on defense in the second and fourth sets, which the Tar Heels used to pick up critical points. Graduate student outside hitter Charley Niego, senior middle hitter Kaya Merkler, and sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster all contributed to the team playing aggressive offensively.
Shaffmaster led the charge with 19 points, with Merkler and Niego following with 16.5 and 9.5, respectively. Shaffmaster and Niego currently rank in the top-10 in kills per set within conference.
When was it decided?
After tying the score in the fourth set, UNC’s downfall began in the fifth after Tar Heel errors and powerful Seminole kills gave Florida State an early lead, and North Carolina was unable to recover.
Why does it matter?
UNC opened ACC play with a loss against No. 10 Pittsburgh last week before picking up a comeback win against Virginia. Following a loss to Miami on Friday, Sunday's matchup gave the team a chance to climb back to a .500 conference record.
The loss drops the team to 1-3 against conference foes as it heads into the bulk of conference play. But despite the slow start, UNC has multiple players ranked near the top of ACC leaderboards, which gives the team a chance to remain competitive for the rest of the season.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will head to Winston-Salem on Friday to compete against Wake Forest, and then will head to Blacksburg, Va. on Sunday for a matchup against Virginia Tech.
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