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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC volleyball drops both matches in ACC-Big Ten Challenge to Michigan, Michigan State


Junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster (9) spiked the ball during a scrimmage in Carmichael Arena on Aug. 19, 2023.

The North Carolina volleyball team fell to Michigan and Michigan State this weekend at the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in Ann Arbor and East Lansing, Michigan, respectively.

On Friday, Sept. 8, UNC faced the Michigan Wolverines to start the weekend slate. The Tar Heels dropped their first match of the series, 3-0, in a battle between first-year head coaches in UNC's Mike Schall and Michigan's Erin Virtue.

Mabrey Shaffmaster, a preseason All-ACC select, led UNC's offense with 12 kills. However, her match high wasn't enough for the other side of the net, as Michigan was able to swing through the blocks and tally 44 kills. First-year opposite hitter Romani Thurman was able to help the Tar Heels with seven kills on a .357 hitting percentage. 

Defensively, sophomore libero Maddy May exploded off the back row with 20 digs, only two shy of her career best. Additionally, it was her second game of the season with 20 or more digs in one match. At the net, Chapel Hill native Kaya Merkler had four out of the five Tar Heel blocks, with one being a solo block. 

The service line did not treat UNC as it usually does. The Tar Heels is known for their competitive serves, but the Tar Heels only converted three aces all match while totaling six service errors. Shaffmaster, graduate outside hitter Emani’ Foster and redshirt sophomore libero Carson Overbeck each contributed an ace in the match. 

On Sunday, Sept. 10, UNC faced the Michigan State Spartans in its second and final match of the weekend, falling in four sets.

The tandem of Shaffmaster and Foster led UNC with double-digit kills in the match. North Carolina's hitting struggles continued as the Spartans out-swung the Tar Heels, notching 46 kills to UNC's 36. Sophomore middle blocker Sadie Swift had a big afternoon at the net, offensively and defensively, with three kills and five blocks. Foster also added three aces to put the Spartans on their heels.

Even though UNC had seven blocks to Michigan State's six, the Tar Heels struggled on the back row, as they were aced 12 times. Additionally, Michigan State outside hitter Taylah Holdem unloaded 21 kills on North Carolina's defense — the second-most by any player against UNC this season. 

In the first set, UNC took an early 7-2 lead. Later in the set, the Tar Heels were down 20-19, when the Spartans unleashed three kills and an ace to close out the first frame. In the second set, the two teams went back and forth, but UNC was able to pull away from a 21-21 standstill to win it with a 4-0 run.

Michigan State defensive specialist Makya Clayton served back-to-back aces, leading to a 24-16 Spartan lead. The Spartan serving line contributed to UNC's third set defeat, as UNC was aced six times. The Spartans secured their win by taking a commanding 11-2 lead in the fourth set.

Schall was forced to use a timeout, but it didn't slow Michigan State's momentum, as Holdem posted four consecutive kills. UNC lost the fourth set, 25-15.

The Tar Heels will look to bounce back from the pair of losses against Santa Clara this Friday in Carmichael Arena at 6 p.m.


@dthsports | 

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