NC State volleyball lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels 3-1 on Sunday, Oct. 18 in Reynolds Coliseum. The match saw the Wolfpack trying to right the ship against its rival, and the Tar Heels trying to continue their winning ways in another road game.
North Carolina (3-2) was a step ahead for most of the first set. After the Wolfpack (0-4) went up 3-1, the Tar Heels rattled off five straight points and never relinquished the lead for the rest of the set. This 25-20 set win by UNC saw it go on an 8-0 run which lasted through two NCSU timeouts. UNC continued its excellent play from Friday, as it won its fourth straight set against the Wolfpack.
“Our timeouts, it’s not a ton about adjustments,'' said head coach Luka Slabe. “It’s more about what we need to do on our end. For our timeouts, when we call them, it’s more about us… there are things we’ve discussed how we need to do better, we adjusted well a couple of times and a couple of times we did not.”
NC State showed some resilience in the second set, trading blows with the Heels early on until eventually pulling away to win the second set, 25-16. This set win was the first of the weekend for the Pack, and since the games with Virginia Tech were postponed, it's the first set it has won since the match against Duke on Sept. 26.
As soon as NC State grabbed the momentum, the team found itself in a quick 6-2 hole in the third set. The Pack quickly regrouped to take a 9-7 lead, and after UNC tied the set at 10, NC State held the lead for most of the third set. But the Tar Heels slowly chipped away at the Wolfpack’s lead, and eventually found themselves in front 20-19. From there, The two sides went neck and neck until NC State had a chance to tie the game at 24. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the serve from sophomore setter Hannah Reid hit the net and the Wolfpack lost the set 25-23.
“So yeah, you lose a set, so what? You gotta go and win the next one,” Slabe said. “For sure, momentum switches and you just need to stay disciplined. We didn’t do that and it cost us, probably a set. We gotta go back and keep working on that. That’s one thing we talk about all the time: to play at this level, on things like that, that’s exactly what you need to do better than your opponent. That’s what we did in moments but not all the time.”
The third set did have a positive highlight for NC State volleyball outside of the score, as senior opposite hitter Melissa Evans recorded her 1,000th career kill for the Pack. She finished the afternoon with 10 kills.
“It’s obviously a huge milestone,” Evans said. “Not a lot of people get a thousand kills, especially at one school. I think that the work that I did put in over the past three years really helped me to get to this spot where I am. Only three games in and I got my thousandth kill in my senior year which is really great. But I don’t think that my work is done. I still need to produce as much as I possibly can on the pin, and be a good teammate and be a good leader for my team. Hopefully in the next season we can start off really strong.”
For the last couple of years, Evans has been a staple of the NC State volleyball program, leading the team on and off the court.
“Everybody knows what Melissa has done for our program,” Slabe said. “We just need to get her healthy and back in shape so she can help us even more. She has a lot of work to be done to be an elite volleyball player, but we are absolutely fortunate to have her. We’re gonna push her until she gets better.”
North Carolina seemed to be one step ahead of the Pack in the fourth set, and soon enough had scored five consecutive points to take a 13-7 lead. NC State fought tooth and nail, but was not able to force a fifth set, as UNC won the fourth set 25-17 to seal the victory for the Tar Heels.
“There was slight improvement that reflected that we were closer than in a couple of games,” Slabe said. “We put UNC in trouble with our serve, except for that last set, we couldn’t get a break and we were not really disciplined with our assignments. But I’m happy to see some improvements. We were way more disciplined than on Friday and in the previous matches so I have to be happy about that.”
NC State will be on the road next week as it makes the trip up to Charlottesville, Virginia to take on Virginia. The match is set to take place on Friday, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. and will air on the ACC Network.
“I think all aspects of our volleyball need to improve,” Evans said. “We had really good serving in sets one and three and then we let up in set four. We had good defense, we had good receiving at times, and sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes we block touches and sometimes we didn’t, so we need to stay the course, stay true to the process, and when we’re in practice, do the best that we can. Try to work out our little kinks so we can all flow together and be a good team on the court. So that reflects, hopefully, to our first win.”