The North Carolina volleyball team (12-13, 6-10 ACC) lost to No. 5 Louisville (23-3, 14-2 ACC) in a three-set match on Sunday afternoon in Kentucky in its last away match of the regular season.
After missing the first of two matches against the Cardinals, junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster made an immediate impact with four straight kills. Louisville would then go on a 4-0 run to get itself back into the game, closing the gap to only one point.
In the first set, the Tar Heels were capitalizing on defensive play and thus turning it into a successful offensive play. The selection of swings was across the net, making it difficult for the Cardinals to predict where North Carolina setters would pass the ball. Three consecutive blocks from middle blocker Cara Creese gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game, 14-13.
Out of the first North Carolina timeout, the Tar Heels went on to score five straight points with kills, blocks and aces to take a one-point lead, 20-19. A joust at the net went against North Carolina and changed the momentum in the Cardinal’s favor. Louisville went on to win set one, 25-23.
After the first set, Shaffmaster had 10 kills and an ace hitting a .368, leading the Tar Heels in a promising set.
The trio of Shaffmaster and first-year hitters Sydney Nolan and Romani Thurman served as the main force of the Tar Heel offense. The second set was tightly contested at the beginning with limited runs by either team. First-year hitter Safi Hampton also shined in serve receive and on the outside with a few kills as well.
The Cardinals started to pull away from the Tar Heels after three kills and an ace. The North Carolina defense had no answer for Creese’s cross-court swing. She tallied five kills in the second set. What also slowed down the Tar Heel offense was the commanding Cardinal block. Furthermore, multiple overpasses by the Tar Heels led to Cardinal kills.
Efforts by Shaffmaster and others were just not enough to keep in contention with the Cardinals. Louisville took the second set 25-16. The Cardinals almost doubled their hitting percentage from the first set to the second set, hitting .607 percent in the second.
Shaffmaster continued to find holes in the Louisville defense from both the front and back row with two kills early in the third set. On the other side of the net, Cardinal hitter Anna DeBeer was heating up at the net, scoring a few kills in the back corners. In an attempt to get the ball over by simply pushing the out-of-system ball over, Louisville hitter Aiko Jones read it in full and came up big at the net with an electric solo block.