After his team suffered a reverse sweep at home against then-No. 25 Florida State, UNC volleyball coach Mike Schall said he wanted one big home win for his team.
Fast forward to Friday, and that big home win seemed out of reach yet again. Down 2-1 against Duke on Senior Day, UNC fell behind 16-7 in the fourth set before the Tar Heels flipped the script.
UNC roared back to tie the match at two sets and then claimed the fifth set to snatch a rivalry win from the brink of defeat. After several games this season in which UNC was on the wrong end of a reverse sweep or momentum shift, the Tar Heels found the confidence to not only survive an opponent run, but turn the momentum in their favor.
For much of this season, the Tar Heels' struggles with opponent surges have been attributed to their youth — out of 16 players, 11 are first-years or sophomores. Oftentimes, junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster finds herself the oldest player on the court besides graduate setter Maria Miggins.
As a result, Shaffmaster said the Tar Heels have a problem believing in themselves sometimes.
Duke is not an opponent that lends much confidence, either. Shaffmaster admitted that, against the Blue Devils’ blocking game, finding a spot to hit the ball was a challenge.
As Duke went on a 9-1 run to build a 13-4 lead in the fourth set, Shaffmaster saw UNC lose belief.
“I think we just kind of thought, ‘This is over, they’re already up two sets, it doesn't matter,’” Shaffmaster said.
The match was eerily similar to how the Tar Heels lost belief against Florida State, a game in which Shaffmaster lamented how UNC let doubt take over — so during a timeout, she didn't mince words with her teammates.