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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC volleyball defeats Santa Clara in four sets

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UNC senior middle blocker Kaya Merkler (14) blocks the ball during the volleyball match against Santa Clara on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Carmichael Arena.

The North Carolina volleyball team (5-3) defeated the Santa Clara Broncos (8-3) in four sets on Friday night. 

The match opened with a kill from senior middle blocker Kaya Merkler. Throughout the first set, the Tar Heels and the Broncos remained close in score. However, following back-to-back attack errors from UNC graduate outside hitter Emani’ Foster, the Tar Heels found themselves down 8-5.

Shortly after, UNC’s offense exploded. North Carolina gained the lead back with four kills in a row, two of which were from Merkler. The Tar Heels and Broncos traded scoring runs for the rest of the frame, with UNC eking out a 25-22 opening set win.

Despite a balanced scoring attack from Merkler, junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster and sophomore middle blocker Sadie Swift to end the first set, the second set started on a low note for North Carolina. 

After UNC was able to score the first two points off of Santa Clara's attacking errors, the Broncos scored five back-to-back points, spearheaded by libero Kat Georgiadis's strong arm. This led to a North Carolina timeout.


UNC sophomore setter Anita Babic (12) sets the ball during the volleyball match against Santa Clara on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Carmichael Arena. UNC won 3 to 1.

 

Directly following the break, UNC was able to catch up, scoring two points with the help of a kill from first-year opposite hitter Romani Thurman.

“I think the biggest thing was trust, just trusting my teammates to cover me,” Thurman said. “Trusting [Anita Babic] to put up great ball, but she always does.”

However, Santa Clara continued to dominate, forcing UNC to call another timeout after the Broncos took a 17-12 lead.

Despite the late scoring efforts from Swift and Shaffmaster, the Tar Heels fell in the second set, 25-18.

UNC jumped out to an early 7-1 lead to open up the third set, backed by a pair of kills from first-year outside hitter Sydney Nolan, eliciting a Broncos timeout.

"There aren't any, like, magic speeches," head coach Mike Schall said when asked about what sparked UNC's scoring spurt. "It's just resetting and that's where I think this group is growing – figuring things out.”

After falling behind early, Santa Clara was never able to establish a rhythm. The Tar Heels eventually took the third set, 25-13.

The fourth set showed that this match was anyone’s game. Santa Clara stayed with the Tar Heels due to numerous kills from middle blocker Anna Stucchi and outside hitter Sophia Tulino. Foster, who finished the match with a game-high 19 kills, kept North Carolina afloat.

“I was like, we have to focus in so we can finish this set," Foster said. "No need to panic. Like, we got it, so we just have to settle in."

Following one last blow from Thurman, the Tar Heels won the tightly contested set, 25-23, to close out the game. 

North Carolina takes the court again this Sunday against Coastal Carolina. The game is set for noon at Carmichael Arena.

@aplancaster_

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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