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UNC volleyball bounces back with wins over Santa Clara and Coastal Carolina

UNC junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster (9) attacks the ball during the volleyball match against Santa Clara on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Carmichael Arena. UNC won 3 to 1.

Mike Schall said there were no magic speeches during Friday night's match against Santa Clara.

But whatever the UNC volleyball head coach said to his team after a tough second set worked.

After the break, the Tar Heels didn't drop a set the rest of the weekend, defeating the Broncos 3-1 and sweeping Coastal Carolina on Sunday.

“It’s relieving to know that we can fight through things,” first-year opposite hitter Romani Thurman said after Friday’s win. “You’re gonna have bumps in the road and we knew that was going to happen, and so it just felt good to come and practice and work hard all week and then tonight be able to pull out a win.”

After winning only one set total in last weekend's ACC-Big Ten challenge against Michigan and Michigan State, it was clear something needed to change for North Carolina.

However, the Tar Heels got off to a slow start on Friday night, eking out a 25-22 opening set win. After the Broncos took the second set, 25-18, UNC's lack of energy was evident.

"We're bummed with how they played in the second set," Schall said. "But also, Santa Clara is an awfully good volleyball team."

UNC sophomore setter Anita Babic (12) set the ball in the September 17, 2023 game against Coastal Carolina. UNC bested Coastal Carolina with a score of 3-0.

The third set, however, was a different story.

North Carolina torched the Broncos 25-13, building all the momentum needed to rejuvenate the team. Despite Santa Clara's late-game push in the fourth set, the Tar Heels pulled away for a match-clinching 25-23 win.

Outside hitters Emani' Foster and Mabrey Shaffmaster tallied a game-high 19 and 14 kills, respectively. While Schall refers to graduate transfer Foster as a "quiet leader," Shaffmaster has a more vocal presence on the court.

Following UNC's 3-0 win over Coastal Carolina, the team captain was quick to point out the Tar Heels' tendency to fall into the wrong mindset.

“I think we have a trend of letting other teams’ energies affect our own,” Shaffmaster said.

She said the team began to dictate its own energy in the third set.

It wasn't just up to Shaffmaster and Foster to get the Tar Heels going, though — junior libero Marissa Meyerhoefer and redshirt sophomore defensive specialist Carson Overbeck also stepped up as leaders this weekend.

Meyerhoefer provided much-needed sparks off the bench at times during both matches. Overbeck, according to Schall, is an encouraging voice on the sidelines and is very involved with the game — something that the team calls “bench points.”

UNC sophomore outside hitter Ava Swain (16) and UNC redshirt sophomore defensive specialist Carson Overbeck (20) listened to instructions during the September 17, 2023 game against Coastal Carolina. UNC bested Coastal Carolina with a score of 3-0.

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Though Schall said there were no magic speeches, by the end of the weekend, it was clear his players didn't need one.

As North Carolina begins ACC play next weekend — hosting Virginia and Pittsburgh — Schall looks to continue building that leadership within his team. 

“Your goal as a coach is to develop leaders on the team who are strong enough, courageous enough, confident enough to take care of things themselves,” Schall said. “And we’re gonna guide them and we’re gonna help them.”


@dthsports |