Pack Volleyball Falls 3-2 at No. 23 North Carolina
Nov. 21, 2012
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For the second consecutive match and the seventh time this season, NC State’s volleyball team pushed an opponent to five sets, but was unable to finish off a comeback win Wednesday afternoon, losing 3-2 to No. 23 North Carolina at Carmichael Arena.
The Wolfpack (22-9 overall, 12-8 ACC) opened the match with a 28-26 win in the first set, dropped the next two and tied the match with a 26-24 win in the fourth. The Tar Heels (25-5, 16-4) surged ahead for a 15-7 win in the decisive fifth set, scoring eight of the set’s final nine points.
The Pack’s hitters also had a tough time against Carolina’s taller front line. State hit only .071 in the match to the Tar Heels’ .204. Sophomore Dariyan Hopper was the only State hitter with double-digit kills, posting a team-high 13 kills and 10 errors on 53 attacks.
Junior Brie Merriwether and sophomores Rachel Buckley and Alesha Wilson all had seven kills apiece for the Wolfpack. Sophomore Nikki Glass had a team-high 20 digs, while Wilson contributed seven total blocks.
Senior Megan Cyr, named to the 2012 All-ACC team earlier in the day, finished with 31 assists.
The Tar Heels had five players with double-digit kills, led by Chaniel Nelson’s 16.
In the first set, the scrappy Wolfpack stayed close with the Tar Heels most of the way until Carolina opened a 23-19 advantage with four straight points. But a kill by Wilson and three straight errors by UNC tied the game at 23-23.
After the Wolfpack secured the serve, the teams traded points until the Tar Heels were called for a net violation on sophomore Hannah Thompson’s serve, giving the Pack a 28-26 victory.
The Pack hit slightly better than the Tar Heels in the first set, .118 to .070. Hopper led the Pack with four kills.
The Tar Heels opened a six-point lead early in the second set, until the Pack stormed back with four straight points to draw within 10-8. But that margin was as close as the Pack got the rest of the game, as the Tar Heels won 25-17.
The third set was similar, as Carolina went on a six-point scoring run to break a 7-7 tie. The Pack never got closer than five points after that.
Bunn’s team gave up another big five-point run in the fourth set, as the Tar Heels turned an 11-11 tie into a 16-11 lead. This time, however, the Pack fought back, forcing the Heels to make errors. Merriwether’s service ace gave the Pack a 19-18 lead and the Pack eventually led by as much as 23-20.
Though it took a few points to score set point, the Pack tied the match with a 26-24 win on a solo block by Merriwether.
In the fifth set, the score was a close 8-6 at the changeover until UNC’s Leigh Andrew took control, posting a kill and three consecutive service aces to give her team a 13-6 lead. The Pack scored only once more before the Tar Heels completed the 3-2 win.
“We gave up too many points in a row during crucial times in the match,” said third-year head coach Bryan Bunn. “If you do that against a good team like Carolina, you can’t battle back.”
It was the seventh time this season, a match has gone five sets for the Wolfpack and its second in five days. The Pack has wins in five-set matches over UNC Wilmington, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, but lost to Virginia Commonwealth, Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina.
The Wolfpack will now sit back and wait until Sunday’s NCAA Championship pairings announcement to see if it makes the field for the first time since 1987. The Pack finished fourth in the ACC regular-season standings and is currently No. 42 in the most recent RPI report.
The pairings for the 31 conference champions and 33 at-large selections will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 4 p.m.
“We are definitely nervous about it,” Bunn said. “You are always nervous when something is in the hands of a selection committee like that. But we have had a good season and traditionally teams that are in the same spot we are in the RPI have gotten in.
“We’ll see on Sunday.”