As the North Carolina campus fell silent — a victim of the desolate strain of the first day of Thanksgiving break — Carmichael Arena was making up for the loss campus felt.
The power rippling between nearly 2,000 fans gathered to watch the UNC volleyball team on Wednesday provided an atmosphere of unmatched energy for the rivalry game against Duke. Such a feeling inspired the Tar Heels and pushed them to play with passion in a 3-1 win over the Blue Devils.
"It was awesome," Head Coach Joe Sagula said. "It may have been one of the best crowds we've seen, and it inspired our team."
The energy of the crowd set first-year libero Maddy May on fire throughout the game. She consistently passed dimes in serve receive off of hard-driven float serves. Duke sent dominant swings to terminate the ball, but these hopes were routinely cut short as May swooped under the ball.
Despite a defensive rearrangement in the first set — May played middle back rather than left back — she rallied 16 digs throughout the match.
"It was so much fun to play with this crowd," she said. "Their energy was so infectious and it made me play better."
After picking up a 25-18 first-set win, UNC quickly fell behind in second-set play.
As Duke began to find its rhythm behind strong kills from senior outside hitter Gracie Johnson, the Tar Heels struggled to stay disciplined in their play and the team's communication began to falter. The Tar Heels accumulated more mistakes, fell quiet and got into their own heads, leaving an opening as the Blue Devils took the second set, 25-19.
However, this shift only fueled UNC fans as they rose to their feet to cheer on a hard-battled third set. UNC began to regain its confidence as first-year setter Anita Babic sent well-placed balls to North Carolina's middle hitters, first-year Liv Mogridge and junior Kaya Merkler. The Tar Heels began to rely on these middles, a shift from the usual outside dominance.