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UNC volleyball drops bout to No. 5 Louisville in a 'disappointing' 3-0 sweep


UNC senior middle hitter Skyy Howard (8) wins a point off of a hit in the second set of the volleyball match against Louisville on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. UNC fell 3-0 to Louisville.

In his postgame interview, North Carolina volleyball head coach Joe Sagula summed up his thoughts on his team’s 3-0 loss to Louisville on Sunday in one word — disappointing.

It was disappointing that his team couldn’t take the opening set from the fifth-ranked team in the nation after being up 20-18.

It was disappointing how UNC let Louisville establish its dominance, allowing the Cardinals to go on a 18-5 run to win the second set.

It was disappointing that the Tar Heels finished with a season-low 31 kills, having only two more kills than errors.

“It wasn’t our best effort,” Sagula said. “I felt like we came out doing what we wanted to do. Once a couple of plays didn’t go our way, I felt like everybody lost confidence in themselves, and then on top of that, we just didn’t have the fire that we had last week.”

Last week, the Tar Heels were just two points away from going into a fifth set with the Cardinals, leading 23-22 in the fourth set before dropping three straight points.

This week, North Carolina failed to reach 23 points in any of the three sets, a feat they accomplished twice in their previous matchup with Louisville.

“Last week we played more aggressively, and we knew that we really had nothing to lose against a ranked team,” graduate outside hitter Charley Niego said. “I think in this game, we needed to keep the mentality that we were going to go on the offensive and maintain an aggressive mindset and we lost that when they started fighting back.”

In the disastrous second set, UNC committed 13 errors, practically gifting the Cardinals points. The Tar Heels scored more points for the other team than they did for themselves, only recording 11 points in the set.

Junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler had seven kills when UNC led 5-4 in the second set, on pace to break her season-high kill total of 13. Instead, she committed four attack errors in five points for the remainder of the set and recorded just two more kills in the remainder of the game.

“I think one of our problems is we lack confidence in ourselves so as soon as something doesn’t go our way, we fall down,” Merkler said. “That’s something we really need to work on because we had all the parts in practice this week but as soon as that self-doubt crossed our minds, our confidence dropped.”

The lack of confidence is something that Sagula has cited as one of North Carolina’s main problems all year. It continued to plague the Tar Heels again on Sunday, resulting in their eighth conference loss of the season.

However, with three games left in the season, the Tar Heels have a chance to win 10 conference games and match their conference record from last season.

“We need to give it our all these next three games,” Merkler said. “A lot of people tend to slouch when the season is ending because it’s almost done, but we need to pick it up and give these next three games everything we have because we don’t have anything to lose.”


@dthsports |

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