The North Carolina volleyball team (15-9, 7-6) picked up a meaningful road win against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-14, 4-9) with a final score of 3-0 on Friday night.
Notre Dame opened the match with two consecutive kills from outside hitter Lucy Trump. The Tar Heels quickly answered with a kill from junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler. The first set was a competitive battle until the 23rd point, which came off a kill from graduate student outside hitter Charley Niego. From that point on, the majority of balls went in favor of North Carolina. The Tar Heels faced a small boost of pressure from the Fighting Irish towards the end of the set, but the set ended with a score of 25-19 favoring UNC.
The Fighting Irish came out swinging in the second set, forcing the Tar Heels to go down 2-4 early. The early minutes of the second set were competitive, but a kill by sophomore outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster knotted the score at 5-5 and shifted the momentum in the Tar Heels’ favor. North Carolina did not trail the Fighting Irish after this point, and went on to dominate the set and win it 25-16 with major contributions from Merkler, Niego, and Shaffmaster.
The third set started off on a similar foot with the Fighting Irish picking up a 2-5 lead off of three attack errors from Niego and Shaffmaster. The start of the set was once again competitive, but an ace from first-year libero Maddy May tied the score at 7-7 and started the Tar Heels’ run. A kill from Shaffmaster ended the set and match with a final score of 25-22.
Who stood out?
Shaffmaster had another phenomenal night, earning herself a double-double with 15 kills and 11 digs, including a match-winning kill.
Niego also had an explosive outing with nine kills. Niego played volleyball Notre Dame from 2018-2021, appearing in 98 matches and totaling 1,265 kills.
First-year setter Anita Babic also played a huge role in the Tar Heels’ win, contributing 21 assists to the team’s success.
Trump was a huge asset for the Fighting Irish, coming up with 10 kills and eight digs. She did all she could to keep it close, but North Carolina’s valiant efforts prevailed.
When was it decided?
The first successful set for the Tar Heels set up their momentum to carry them through the rest of the match. The first play of the second set was also significant for North Carolina, as a kill from the back line by Shaffmaster established the Tar Heels’ tone for the rest of the set.
The Tar Heels forced two Notre Dame timeouts during the second set, making it evident that their momentum was affecting the Fighting Irish. After the Tar Heels won the second set, there was little that Notre Dame could do to crawl back into the match.
Why does it matter?
This road win gives the Tar Heels some much needed momentum going into the remainder of the regular season. With two matches against ACC powerhouse Louisville coming up, this win can give the Tar Heels a boost against the reigning conference champion.
This win also gives North Carolina a winning conference record and places them right above in-state rival N.C. State in the conference standings.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to L&N Federal Credit Union Arena to face the fifth-ranked Louisville Cardinals on Sunday at 1 p.m.
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