Continuing conference play at Carmichael Arena, the North Carolina volleyball team (7-4, 1-1 ACC) fell to the No. 8 Pittsburgh Panthers (11-2, 2-0 ACC), 3-0, ending its unbeaten home record.
UNC couldn't maintain its momentum from Friday’s sweep against Virginia. The Tar Heels continued to play better in regard to service errors and floor communication, but not enough to leave the arena with a win against the Panthers.
As the top-ranked team in the ACC, Pittsburgh served as a test for North Carolina's potential as they head deeper into the regular season. Still, sophomore setter Anita Babic said she doesn't treat higher ranked opponents differently based on their record.
“I think that when you play someone, you don’t really think about the ranking, you kind of just kind of look across the net and see who you have to beat and who you have to win a point against,” Babic said.
The Panthers went on a 5-1 scoring run to begin the first set. The Tar Heels became more aggressive on the net and managed to tally enough points to close in on the Panthers and take an 11-9 lead. This effort was led by junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster and sophomore middle blocker Sadie Swift.
The rest of the set remained close until the Panthers went on a final 3-0 scoring run to stifle UNC’s opportunity and take the first set.
The Tar Heels and Panthers continued to go back and forth at the beginning of the second set with crucial kills from Shaffmaster and offensive net aggression by graduate outside hitter Emani’ Foster. However, by the middle of the set, the Panthers went on a 6-0 scoring run to go up 16-8.
“They are just heavy hitters. They hit the crap out of the ball,” Shaffmaster said. “It really challenged, more so, our blocking than our passing, I would say, but I think [later] in the second set, we kind of started to figure it out a little bit.”
Similar to the first set, the Tar Heels combatted this effort and went on a 5-0 scoring run to close the distance, bringing the match score to 19-17. The Panthers closed out the set with a solid 25-17 win.