The North Carolina volleyball team fell to No. 5 Louisville Cardinals 3-1 in its game on the road at L&N Federal Credit Union Arena.
Coming into a match against No. 5 ranked Louisville, the unranked UNC volleyball team wasn’t willing to simply roll over. The Tar Heels had a strong start led by an offense consisting of graduate student outside hitter Charley Niego, sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster, and senior middle hitter Skyy Howard.
Louisville started the first set with service error after service error and let balls drop close to the end line. Every time the Cardinals began to gain momentum, it was halted by another one of their errors. With kills by first-year middle hitter Liv Mogridge, the Louisville Cardinals were forced to take a timeout.
At 22-17, head coach Joe Sagula challenged an out call on a hit from Shaffmaster which was then overturned. A blistering ball down the line from Shaffmaster claimed the first set 25-17 for the Tar Heels.
To start the second set, UNC put the Cardinals in uncomfortable situations with big hits coming from the Tar Heels’ left side. With a competitive start to the set, there were back-to-back points exchanged between the two teams, keeping it a very close set.
The Cardinals began to find their momentum with huge blocks from junior middle hitter Phekran Kong, and with a late hitting error from junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler, Louisville took the second set 25-17.
The third set started off with a battle of service errors. The defining point to start this set was which team was able to send an aggressive serve over and in the court, an aspect of the game that was overwhelmingly dominated by the Tar Heels.
A block from Mogridge helped the Tar Heels to find the hot spot in this game as they forced a Louisville timeout while UNC led 10-6. However, Louisville soon began to chip away, capitalizing on Tar Heel errors later in the set.
Back-to-back dominant kills from Louisville’s grad student outside hitter Claire Chaussee brought the game to 18-15. Her dominant playing erupted the building while the Tar Heels weren’t able to get past her block or pick up her hits. An overpass kill from Louisville’s redshirt junior Nena Mbonu took the third set 25-20.
With a must-win match for the Tar Heels, UNC came out strong with consistent kills from both Shaffmaster and Niego. However, the momentum Louisville gained from the third set carried into the fourth, making it difficult for UNC to find its rhythm.
Although the Tar Heels trailed throughout the set, sets from first-year setter Anita Babic to Shaffmaster’s terminating swing allowed for UNC to stay just points behind the Cardinals. A huge block from Howard tied the game 21-21 while an ace from May put the Tar Heels in the lead.
With a blocking error from Merkler, the Cardinals claimed the fourth set 25-23, and the match 4-1.
Who stood out?
Both Niego and Shaffmaster were all over the court throughout this match. Niego racked up 13 kills and 14 digs. Shaffmaster rallied a total of 16 kills and 7 digs.
Babic was the match leader in assists tallying an impressive 36 assists throughout the game.
When was it decided?
While Louisville was able to keep its momentum by racking up less errors, the Cardinals found the hot hand in the second set as they pounced on all of their hitting and defensive opportunities.
The dominant play by Louisville's Chaussee led the Cardinals back from a 6-point deficit to win the third set which erupted the building with an enormous level of energy. It carried into the fourth set where Louisville claimed the match.
Why does it matter?
This ACC matchup was an opportunity for the Tar Heels to improve their RPI against the No. 5 team in the nation.
The Tar Heels take on the Louisville Cardinals next weekend in Chapel Hill, so this was the perfect opportunity for the UNC volleyball team to see how they match up against this talented Louisville team.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels return to Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Nov. 13 for a rematch against the Louisville Cardinals.
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