The North Carolina volleyball team (17-12, 9-9 ACC) defeated Virginia (12-17, 4-14 ACC), 3-0, on senior night and in the Tar Heels’ regular-season finale.
Propelled by three kills on three attempts from sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster, UNC capitalized on several Virginia errors and jumped out to a 10-3 lead early in the first set. The Tar Heels’ strong start prompted the Cavaliers to call a timeout, but UNC kept its foot on the gas after the break, stretching their lead to 17-6 before forcing another Virginia timeout. Shaffmaster continued to drive the Tar Heels to victory late in the first set, recording two kills after the Cavaliers’ second timeout en route to a dominant 25-15 victory.
UNC started strong again in the second set, taking an early 9-2 lead that forced a Virginia timeout. The Tar Heels went on a scoring drought after the timeout that allowed the Cavaliers to score four unanswered points to trim UNC’s advantage to 9-6. The Tar Heels answered Virginia’s run with one of their own, as senior middle hitter Skyy Howard led a 6-2 run with two kills to extend UNC’s lead to 15-8. The Tar Heels and Cavaliers traded scores late in the set, but UNC closed out the set with a 5-2 run that gave them a 25-16 second-set win.
It took the Tar Heels until later in the set to separate themselves from Virginia than in the first two sets, as UNC didn’t take more than a three-point advantage until a Cavaliers’ error put them ahead 12-8. UNC mostly maintained its lead and took an 18-15 lead late in the set, forcing a Virginia timeout. The Tar Heels scored two unanswered points after the timeout, which was part of a 5-0 run that put them ahead 21-15. Virginia drew to within three of UNC’s lead, but the six-point deficit was too much for the Cavaliers to overcome, and the Tar Heels clinched the 25-20 third-set victory.
Who stood out?
Howard made the most of her senior night, recording seven kills with a 28.6 hit percentage, two digs and two blocks. Shaffmaster also had a strong performance, tallying a game-high 12 kills, four digs and three blocks.
When was it decided?
Despite taking a 2-0 match lead, the Cavaliers were well within striking distance of forcing a fourth set in the third set, as Virginia trailed 16-15 just over midway through the set. But a 5-0 run late in the third set that put UNC ahead 21-15 appeared to be the run the Tar Heels needed to seal the victory.