The North Carolina volleyball team (7-7, 1-4 ACC) lost in four sets against No. 6 Louisville (13-2, 4-1 ACC) to open weekend play at Carmichael Arena on Friday night.
In only her second career start, first-year outside hitter Safi Hampton came up big with 12 kills for North Carolina. However, it was late defensive errors and lack of court communication that led to the Tar Heels' loss against the 2022 national runner-ups.
Coming off a four-set loss at Miami on Sunday, UNC looked to establish dominance in the first set against the Cardinals. Early on, UNC used its first challenge on a tip call. Winning the first challenge on only the second rally of the match shifted the momentum to North Carolina. Junior libero Marissa Meyerhoefer kept it going with two consecutive aces, giving the Tar Heels a 5-2 advantage.
Unforced errors on UNC’s side of the net kept the game tight early on. Out of system passing errors and an illegal back row attack gave Louisville a sense of confidence and control. However, Louisville setter Elle Glock made two errors of her own, allowing North Carolina to tie the game at 14 apiece.
Coming out of the timeout, it was Meyerhoefer yet again for the Tar Heels with a four point serving run to push the first set lead to 18-15. In the first set alone, there were a total of five challenges – four of which ruled in favor of UNC.
“At one to zero when you challenge a call, it's because we know that points are hard to come by against Louisville so it was worth it,” head coach Mike Schall said. “And we saw it and we felt confident in it.”
With junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster out for the match due to injury, Babic spread the ball offensively and looked to other attackers to step up. Graduate outside hitter Emani’ Foster had three kills in the 25-19 first set victory.
UNC began the second set with a 6-0 scoring run thanks to five consecutive scores from Hampton. Hampton's diverse set of shots moved Louisville's defense on each rally. She put the ball on the floor with both cross court shots and rips to the outside line.
“It's hard being a freshman and jumping right into this,” Schall said. “[Hampton's] been more and more consistent in practice and her physical abilities are pretty obvious. I'm proud of her because it wasn't easy.”