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UNC volleyball falls to Wake Forest in reverse sweep at home

UNC graduate outside hitter Emani' Foster (8) and UNC sophomore middle blocker Sadie Swift (7) block the ball in the Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023 game against Wake Forest University in Carmichael Arena.

The North Carolina volleyball team (11-12, 5-9 ACC) fell in a reverse sweep to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (17-8, 8-6 ACC) in five sets on Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena.

UNC struck the Demon Deacons first with a tip from first-year outside hitter Sydney Nolan.

Following strong blocks from sophomore middle blocker Sadie Swift, first-year opposite hitter Romani Thurman and graduate outside hitter Emani’ Foster, the Tar Heels found themselves with an early 11-2 lead. 

North Carolina continued to dominate, soaring to a 18-5 lead after kills from Foster and junior outside hitter Mabrey Shaffmaster.

“The team was just really functioning at a high level,” head coach Mike Schall said.  “Everything was good about [the first set]. I liked our rhythm.”

Despite the strong start, UNC began to falter in the middle of the first set. A 4-0 run by the Demon Deacons brought the score to 22-10. UNC eventually rose back to power and claimed the set, 25-12.

The second set did not see as much of a dominant performance from the Tar Heels. 

Despite an early lead, the two teams were locked up at seven points apiece early in the set. Following service errors, kills and aces, neither the Tar Heels or Demon Deacons could get a lead greater than two points.

This changed with an over-shot from Wake Forest outside hitter Ava Carney. The misfire put UNC up 15-12, leading to a Demon Deacon timeout.

Multiple Wake Forest errors brought the UNC lead to 21-17. North Carolina called a timeout after Wake Forest outside hitter Paige Crawford recorded a kill to bring the score to 22-20. The Tar Heels took the second set, 25-22, following a kill from Foster. 

“The second set, those are the kinds of sets that we expected to play against [Wake Forest] for us,” Schall said, later adding, “We really earned the second set and felt really good about [it].”

Wake Forest brought much-needed energy into the third set. It mustered up an early 6-2 lead, recording multiple kills on UNC’s front line. A powerful kill from Foster trimmed Wake Forest’s lead to just two points. However, this burst of energy was short lived as UNC found itself down 12-7 just seconds later. 

The Demon Deacons continued to control the third set, forcing UNC to call a timeout. Despite late efforts to bounce back, the Tar Heels found themselves down 22-15. Following the UNC timeout, North Carolina went on a 4-1 run to bring the score to 23-19. 

Following a service ace from first-year setter Zoe Behrendt, UNC tried to keep this momentum to execute the sweep. At 24-22, Wake Forest called a timeout. 

The late energy proved to be insufficient, as Wake Forest middle blocker Olivia Franke provided the kill necessary to win the third set, 25-22.

Wake Forest wasted no time in the fourth set, jumping to an early 3-0 lead. Their run was silenced after a Foster kill – her tenth of the game.

Wake Forest continued its late-game domination, bursting into an 11-8 lead. UNC battled back to tie the score at 11 apiece after a joint-effort block from Swift and Foster and a solo kill from Thurman. 

Following kills from Shaffmaster and Foster, with the addition of a successful UNC challenge, the Tar Heels and the Demon Deacons found themselves tied at 16. This success was shortly celebrated, though, as Wake Forest fought to claim the next two points.

With a 21-18 lead, Wake Forest found itself in the perfect position to carry the next step of the reverse sweep: claiming the set. The Demon Deacons went on to claim the set, 25-22. 

Both teams came out hot in the final set. A failed Wake Forest challenge gave UNC the 6-5 advantage. A kill from graduate setter Maria Miggins gave North Carolina the 8-6 lead. 

Just when UNC thought the set would be an easy win, Wake Forest took a 10-9 lead. Following a Wake Forest service error, the teams were tied at 10. The back-and-forth affair continued, but with a final over-hit from Foster, Wake Forest completed the reverse sweep, claiming the fifth set 16-14.

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“[The team] said it felt different because there wasn't a set that we didn't compete hard or didn't come back like we were in it the whole way,” Schall said. “So it feels different. It still hurts, though. I mean, there's no two ways about it.”

UNC will take on Wake Forest again on Friday night in Winston-Salem at 7 p.m.


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