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    Volleyball Fights Off Match Point, Beats UNC Wilmington 3-2
    Sophomore Alston Kearns
    Sophomore Alston Kearns

    Sept. 11, 2012

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    RALEIGH, N.C. - Down to match point on its home court, NC State's volleyball team rallied after losing its first two sets against UNC Wilmington for a 3-2 victory at Reynolds Coliseum on Tuesday night.

    Playing less than inspired in the opening two sets, the Wolfpack let a pair of early leads slip away. The match nearly escaped as well, as the Seahawks were serving with a 24-20 lead in the third set.

    The Pack (9-1) seized the serve, however, and sophomore Nikki Glass led a charge in which State scored six straight points to stave off its second home loss of the season.

    The 26-24 victory seemed to awaken third-year head coach Bryan Bunn's team, which was playing its seventh contest in a 13-match homestand. In the next two sets, the Pack hit .387 and .455, respectively, winning 25-16 and 15-11.

    The momentum changed quickly after the third-set win, and continued to swing the Wolfpack's way when sophomore Alston Kearns saved a ball from going out of bounds by kicking it high into the air to continue the point. Later, senior Megan Cyr managed to keep a volley going after falling to the court.

    The Pack won both points, and took the wind from the Seahawks wings.

    "We were awful in the first two sets," Bunn said. "We absolutely lost our minds. The girls have shown a lot of resiliency all year, but they shouldn't be putting themselves in that position.

    "When we get to the ACC, this is not going to fly. You can't go out and score six straight if you are down 24-20 to an ACC team."

    The Wolfpack opens its conference schedule on Friday, when rival North Carolina comes to Reynolds for a 7 p.m. contest. Admission is free for all spectators.

    "They are tough - they are going to be one of the top three teams in our league," Bunn said. "We have to get our act together in two days."

    In the opening set against UNCW, the Wolfpack jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but couldn't hold on. The Seahawks fought back to make the score 19-18, then took their first lead of the contest with four consecutive points that gave them a 22-19 lead.

    UNCW finished off the 7-2 flurry to win the opening frame 25-21, hitting .182 to the Wolfpack's .049. UNCW also won the battle at the net, recording six blocks to the Wolfpack's one.

    The Seahawks also came back from a 21-18 deficit to capture the second set, 25-22, to take its 2-0 lead.

    In the third set, Wilmington was in position to seal the win, even getting to match point, 24-20. But the Wolfpack scored six in a row behind the serving of Glass to close the gap to 2-1.

    The Pack surged in the fourth set, inspired by a foot's up play Kearns, who made her first start at libero. With a mis-hit ball going out of bounds on the baseline, she stuck out her right foot, kicked the ball in the air to continue the volley. The Pack eventually won the point and gained some much-needed momentum.

    Cyr added to it later in the set, when she was able to set a pass to a teammate despite falling on the ground as she tried to get in position. She still managed to get the ball in the air to keep alive a long volley that the Pack eventually won.

    "It's all about confidence and when we made that run in the third set, it gave us confidence," Bunn said. "They didn't want to lose."

    Behind the strong attacks of sophomores Dariyan Hopper and Glass and freshman Morgan Cormier, the Wolfpack improved its hitting to .387 for the set and won going away 25-16.

    In the decisive fifth set, Hopper and Cormier led the way in a .455 hitting effort, and the Pack led the entire way en route to a 15-11 win.

    For the match, Hopper finished with 17 kills, followed by Glass with 16 and Cormier and junior Brie Merriwether with 13 each. Cormier led the way with seven total blocks, followed by Merriwether with five.

    Kearns led the team with 22 digs, while Cyr had 15 digs and 52 assists, matching the second most in her career.



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