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The Daily Tar Heel

‘We just didn’t execute’: UNC volleyball falls to rival Duke

UNC sophomore middle blocker Sadie Swift (7) blocks the ball during the volleyball match against Duke on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. UNC fell to Duke 3-1.

At the end of the second set against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, an error was committed in deciding which team should receive the 23rd point. 

The score was even at 22 when Duke recorded a kill on UNC’s front line. Instead of Duke receiving the point, which should have been the case, all scoreboards lit up for UNC to claim the point. 

Scorers, coaches and players from all teams immediately noticed the error. A problem that could have been fixed in two minutes ended up putting the game on hold for almost twenty as the referees figured out how to fix the problem. 

When the error was corrected, Duke wasted no time in claiming the set, and the three following sets to pull out the win. In this swift, momentum-stealing snapshot, Duke was able to take what they needed and run away with the match. 

Despite claiming the first set, UNC was never able to capitalize on its opportunities and keep its lead going. Following consistent Duke defense and low UNC execution, the Tar Heels fell to the Blue Devils 3-1. 

“[Winning that point] could have changed some things but we just didn't execute well in that moment,” head coach Mike Schall said. 

Moments before dropping the critical second set, UNC had gone on a 4-0 run to go up by one point with a kill from sophomore middle blocker Sadie Swift. 

“I don't think our energy was bad,” Schall said. “I think our execution needed to be better.”

The Tar Heel offense had their bright spots, but never enough to win out a set after the first. First-year outside hitter Sydney Nolan had the highest hitting percentage on the night, overpowering both Duke and UNC with a 0.833 percentage. 

UNC first-year outside hitter Sydney Nolan (5) attacks the ball during the volleyball match against Duke on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. UNC fell to Duke 3-1.

“I think the prep we put into the game led to a lot of success,” Nolan said. “Our coaches really told us what areas of the court we could focus on, which was just hitting around their block.”

Duke’s elite blocking seemed to be a spot of difficulty for UNC. Duke put up 15 blocks in comparison to UNC’s six. Nolan emphasized the importance of UNC being “shoddy” in trying to combat Blue Devil blocks and reclaim the momentum. 

“We just have to play together.” Nolan said. “And really believe in one another, and also just perform like how we have been putting in all the time and effort and work in practice.”

Not capitalizing on scoring opportunities to claim a lead has been a theme for UNC this year. This marks the seventh match of the season where UNC has won at least one set, but was not able to pull out the win. 

“I think [in] every match we've played, we've had opportunities.” Schall said. “You know, when we don't follow through, it hurts. And I think that's okay.”

The Tar Heels have another chance to claim a rivalry game on Sunday when they host NC State at Carmichael Arena – the first home match in over two weeks. 

“I think that all of us just still believe in our goals and we believe that we can get it done,” Nolan said. “And we can pull off these wins.”


@dthsports |

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