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The Daily Tar Heel

Takeaways from UNC volleyball's weekend against Louisville and Notre Dame


UNC first-year outside hitter Safi Hampton (22) attacks the ball during the volleyball game against Louisville on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, at Carmichael Arena. UNC lost to Louisville 1-3. 

The North Carolina volleyball team dropped both home matches this weekend, losing to No. 6 Louisville on Friday and Notre Dame on Sunday. The Tar Heels have now lost five straight matches, including three at home.

Here are three takeaways from the weekend as North Carolina looks to bounce back following a tough stretch:

Ability to compete with a top team

In UNC's second matchup against a ranked opponent this season, the Tar Heels were able to win a set against the Cardinals. They did so without star junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster, who missed the match due to an injury she suffered last weekend against Miami. 

“I told them that the first set wasn’t a fluke,” head coach Mike Schall said. “That we earned that win.”

The Tar Heels lost a close second set before dropping the following two, for a 3-1 loss. However, their ability to compete at a high level against the 2022 national runner-up is a good indication of the potential this team has.

“We’re closer and closer and I also told the team — I sound like a broken record — that we’re right there,” Schall said. “But that’s what I believe. That's what I see."

Impact of first-years Safi Hampton and Romani Thurman

Throughout the weekend, first-year outside hitter Safi Hampton was a consistent threat for the Tar Heels, both offensively and defensively. Hampton — who earned her first career start last weekend at Miami — stepped up in the absence of Shaffmaster on Friday, tallying 12 kills.

“Safi’s proven throughout the season, it’s hard being a freshman and jumping right into this,” Schall said. “She’s been more and more consistent in practice and her physical abilities are pretty obvious. And I'm proud of her because it wasn’t easy.”

First-year opposite hitter Romani Thurman was more involved in the game this weekend – something Schall noted should be done more. 

“They really did step up and bring the team together, especially Safi,” junior defensive specialist Marissa Meyerhoefer said after the loss to Louisville. “Like being a freshman, that's intimidating, and she handled it really, really well. She really did. And in those tough moments, the ball was going to her, and she was able to do something with it, whether it's passing, hitting, whatever it may be.”

Struggling to close

In both Friday and Sunday’s matches, the Tar Heels struggled to finish.

After UNC took a one-set lead against the Cardinals on Friday, they were able to keep up with Louisville in the second set, tying momentarily at 23. However, two miscues resulted in two straight Louisville points to close the set. 

“I think the pit in all of our stomachs is being at 23-all in the second set,” Schall said. 

Schall added that, while the following two plays wouldn't have necessarily clinched the set for the Tar Heels, the team did not handle them well.

On Sunday, the Tar Heels took a two-set lead over Notre Dame, but after the break, North Carolina lost the next three sets. 

Early in the season, North Carolina squeaked out a win in five sets against Arizona following a two-set Tar Heel lead. Against tight ACC competition, in which UNC holds a 1-5 record, North Carolina can't give up momentum in late-game scenarios and still hope to see success.

“We weren’t in position in sets three, four or five to close anything out,” Schall said. “We got off to shaky starts and had a couple bad passing moments that we couldn’t dig ourselves out of and I’m just not sure, I thought we’d manage that better than we did.”


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