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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC volleyball sweeps Virginia Tech at home

UNC graduate outside hitter Emani’ Foster (8) jumps to hit the ball at the volleyball game versus Virginia Tech in Carmichael Arena on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. UNC won 3-0.

The North Carolina volleyball team (11-11, 5-8 ACC) defeated Virginia Tech (12-12, 2-11 ACC) in three sets on Friday at home in a battle between two teams with a three-game losing streak.

“We’ve been up and down a little bit and we’re working to steady out," head coach Mike Schall said. "But I’m really proud of the group."

After back-and-forth kills to start the set, UNC was finally able to do what they couldn’t against N.C. State: follow its momentum. After UNC secured its first kill of the match, the Hokies were able to come back with a couple of big blocks at the net, cutting a 5-point lead to two, trailing 14-12.

But a kill by sophomore defensive specialist Maddy May, followed by a sliding save from graduate outside hitter Emani' Foster, restarted the momentum for the Tar Heels.

“[Emani’] leads by how she plays, she doesn’t shy away from big moments, she enjoys that part of it,” Schall said. “She’s a really competitive kid. She's not gonna yell and scream out there but boy she wants to win.”

North Carolina’s defense on the right side of the net kept the Hokies' hit percentage below 0.15 for the first set. However, a series of attack errors for North Carolina kept it to a close 21-22 after a 3-0 Hokies spurt.

Two kills at the end of the first set by junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster led the Tar Heels to come out on top, taking the opening set. This comeback illustrated another improvement from the match against the Wolfpack: being able to execute in big moments.

“We’ve been talking all season about winning the real points,” Foster said. “So, after 17, that’s when you need to close the game out, so it was a great example of us doing that.”

Communication was what differentiated the Tar Heels and Hokies in the second set. The back-and-forth affair was close until Foster’s powerful strike began a 9-2 run for North Carolina.

North Carolina first-year outside hitter Sydney Nolan kept the right side of the net invincible, with a series of top-tier blocks keeping the Hokies' kill percentage low. The Tar Heel bench played a role in the first-year's newfound energy, as they chanted “Syd-ney No-lan” every time she made a big play.

“Syd’s like insane. She’s so good. I just love to watch her play,” Foster said. “I know she’s gonna be there with me when I’m blocking and she’s gonna take up some space.”

The fiery North Carolina offense made this set fly by with a 25-14 win.

“We just kept our foot on that gas and went for it,” Schall said. “[I’m] really proud of the group for taking charge in that moment and being at our best at the end of sets.”

Down 2-0, Virginia Tech did not show any sign of giving up. Right-side hitter Hailey Pearce was the main contributor to the Hokies' 10-4 lead early in the third set, leading the team in kills through this point.

An attack error from Virginia Tech, followed by three quick kills from UNC gave the Tar Heels their first lead of the third set and the momentum they needed to carry out this match. North Carolina finished out the match on an 8-1 scoring run.

“Stress can come from being down big, which we were,” Schall said. “Stress can come from what the opponents are doing to us, and the kids on the floor never got away from doing our job.”

The Tar Heels will face Wake Forest on Sunday at 1 p.m. at home, in their first of two back-to-back matches against the Demon Deacons.

@dthsports |

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