The NC State volleyball team (0-3) suffered a tough 3-0 loss against the North Carolina Tar Heels (3-2) on Friday, Oct. 16 in Reynolds Coliseum.
The Wolfpack was playing in its first match since opening the season with two road matches against Duke on Sept. 23 and 26. Matches that were scheduled to be played against Virginia Tech on Oct. 2-3 were postponed, giving the team an extra layoff before the match against the Tar Heels.
“We live in the era right now where those things are expected,” said head coach Luka Slabe. “You’d like to be in a rhythm, you’d like to play two matches every week… We’re just happy to be able to compete against UNC tonight.”
Notably missing from the lineup was senior opposite hitter Melissa Evans, the Pack’s leader in points and kills from a year ago, who was out due to injury.
“[Evans] is a senior, she’s a leader on the team, so her absence is a big note, but that’s not an excuse for our loss,” said junior outside hitter Jade Parchment. “We still have to make the same adjustments we always make when we lose. She was definitely missed.”
The Pack seemed to be a step ahead of the Tar Heels early in the first set, trading blows with the Heels to an 8-7 lead. That momentum seemed to transition toward UNC after an official review and a later challenge by the Tar Heels stopped play.
The Heels ended up winning the first set 25-20, and continued to go back and forth with the Wolfpack into the second set.
After trailing for most of the second set, NC State tied the score 17-17 with the momentum coming back to its side. That momentum quickly returned to the Tar Heels, however, who immediately went on a 4-0 run and won the set 25-20 to take a commanding 2-0 set lead.
“We’ve just gotta win in a couple of categories,” Slabe said. “We’ve gotta be a better serving team, we’ve gotta pass better… We need another player that’s gonna crank it up a little bit.”
Similar to the second set, the Pack closely trailed for most of the third before tying the score 15-15. It once again could not get over the hump and take the lead and the Heels went on a 10-3 run to close the set and win the match.
Despite outnumbering the Heels in attacks 120-97, the Pack could not convert those opportunities into points as it finished with a hitting percentage of just .100 compared to UNC’s .196. The Pack also shot itself in the foot too many times, committing 21 attack errors to UNC’s 13.
Even with the loss, NC State’s squad featured several admirable individual performances. Parchment led all players in kills with 13 and points with 14, and sophomore setter Kristen McDaniel led all players in assists with 27.
“It’s the beginning of a long journey for us,” Slabe said. “We need to get healthy… We’re just happy that we’re competing and we get to go practice again.”
While 0-3 may not be the start the team was hoping for, Parchment remains optimistic that the first win is just around the corner.
“I think our players are all very capable,” Parchment said. “This is not a skill thing. This is a mental thing. As soon as we can get it to click, then I have no concerns about us coming out with a win soon. Sunday is an opportunity, so hopefully that’ll be the first one.”
The Wolfpack plays UNC again on Sunday at 1 p.m. before traveling to Charlottesville, Virginia on Oct. 23 to face the Virginia Cavaliers. The game on Sunday will air on ACC Network Extra.