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The Daily Tar Heel

'Doubt kills dreams': UNC volleyball falters at home in another reverse sweep

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UNC women's volleyball head coach Mike Schall at their game against Florida State University in Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.

UNC volleyball head coach Mike Schall’s hands fell to his knees as he bent over and stared at the ground. 

On the other side of the court, the No. 25 Florida State volleyball team erupted after completing a reverse sweep of the Tar Heels on Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena. UNC fell in five sets, 3-2.

Schall’s team was close to earning its first win against a ranked opponent this season, but for the second home match in a row, the Tar Heels just couldn’t close it out. Just two weeks ago, UNC fell to Wake Forest after holding a 2-0 set lead. While the Tar Heels were able to bounce back with a reverse sweep of their own over the Demon Deacons a few days later they found themselves in a situation all too familiar against Florida State.

North Carolina controlled the match during the first two sets on Sunday against the Seminoles, looking comfortable on defense and finding ways to be in the right place off the block. The Tar Heels looked poised to stun Florida State with a sweep.

“I think it shows that we’re capable of more than we think we are,” junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster said. “Obviously we got reverse swept, but I think the first two sets, that’s how we play, that’s how we practice. That’s how we are as a team.”

The dominant first two sets, in which UNC posted .395 and .385 hitting percentages to win both, 25-19, was a stark contrast to its previous matchup against Florida State back in September in which the Tar Heels got swept in Tallahassee.

However, as things commonly have gone throughout the season, the Tar Heels came out flat after the five-minute break before the third set. 

“Sometimes we just let doubt creep in and I mean, doubt kills dreams, honestly,” Shaffmaster said. “I think after that, we kind of were in a little bit of shock that we had won the first two [sets] — some people were. And so I think kind of like set in and people just started to be like, ‘Oh well, we can’t win this game.’”

After a 25-14 third-set loss in which UNC posted a .050 hitting percentage, North Carolina was unable to swing momentum back in its favor, struggling again in the fourth with a .051 hitting percentage. 

For much of this season, Schall has felt as if his Tar Heels have been close — close to getting a big win, to fighting back and to closing out a match. Earlier this year, after UNC fell to then-No. 6 Louisville, 3-1, he admitted he didn’t know what exactly they were close to — a sentiment he reiterated following Sunday’s loss.

“I wish I knew exactly what it was,” Schall said. “Our mentality is really important to us, and sometimes when you’ve been in this situation, some doubt can creep in. Not because we want it to, but that’s human nature and we want to stop that from happening.”

Despite the loss and the looming disappointment, Schall was quick to note that he wasn’t disappointed in the team, and they aren’t disappointed in each other. The head coach knows that his team will be hungry to learn from this match, just as they have been all season. 

As North Carolina heads into its final game against Duke on Friday — which is senior night for the Tar Heels — Schall still has confidence in his team.

“I want this group to experience a big win on our home floor,” Schall said. “And last I checked, Duke is always a big match and we’re gonna be ready and this group is gonna be ready. I know how much they care and our leadership is strong in the locker room.” 

@mdmaynard74

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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