NC State Volleyball redeemed itself after an early season loss to UNC-Chapel Hill, sweeping the Tar Heels 3-0 Wednesday night at Reynolds Coliseum.
The Wolfpack (14-12, 8-8 ACC) stayed strong in a tight first set against the Tar Heels (7-18, 3-13 ACC), winning the first set with a slight gap 25-22. The Pack pushed through an even tighter second set at 26-24 to take the 2-0 advantage. In the third set, the Pack took control of the game, leaving the Tar Heels behind 25-16.
“We hit .290 which is really really good, even though other parts of our game were struggling,” head coach Linda Hampton-Keith said. “Which is okay, because it was really impressive to see our team pull together and get better as the match went on, but our hitters really did do a good job of putting the ball away.”
The Wolfpack got off to a good start in the first half taking control of the game. Senior setter Kylie Pickrell dove to catch the tip for sophomore outside hitter Melissa Evans to execute a kill and give the Pack an early 7-4 lead.
The Tar Heels saw their first lead at 9-8 but were quickly stopped when freshman outside hitter Jade Parchment had a clean kill to tie up the score. Parchment was the second in scoring with 10 kills after senior middle blocker Teni Sopitan, who had 15. Sopitan recorded a strong .324 hitting percentage.
A kill from junior middle blocker Lauryn Terry followed by a double block with Terry and Pickrell gave the Pack a two-point lead, 12-10. The Tar Heels started to form their own lead at 18-16, but the Pack promptly took a timeout and returned to tie the score.
The Tar Heels caught up to the Pack to tie the first set up at 22, but the Wolfpack used the momentum from the crowd and then won three consecutive points to take the win.
“The environment that we create here in Reynolds is phenomenal,” Hampton-Keith said. “It’s a little bit more energy when we get a kill and the whole gym goes crazy. That just gives you a boost, that really was a lot of the difference.”
The second set started out much like the first set with the Pack keeping a slim lead on the Tar Heels. This didn’t last long though as the Tar Heels went on a 3-0 run to tie the score at 9-9. Throughout the second set, there were 10 times the score was tied, but only two lead changes.
The Tar Heels managed to take the lead away from the Pack at 17-15, but it was short lived as the Pack responded with a timeout and a kill from graduate middle blocker Kiera Moore who got the Pack back on track 19-19.
The Pack rose up to the challenge at the end of the set and went up 26-24. The crowd played a huge factor in the set, as everyone knew this set was a deciding factor in the game since 2-0 lead puts much more pressure on the opposing team.
That’s why a key momentum shift happened when senior libero Makenzie Kuchmaner got three digs in one play before the Wolfpack got the point.
“It gets your blood flowing,” Kuchmaner said. “When [the crowd] is that loud, you’re getting so excited, when we put the ball away on that play it was so exciting I got chills, those types of plays and the fans make it all worth it.”
The third set began with the Tar Heels halting the Pack from taking an early lead and keeping the score tight at 3-3. The close match only lasted for the first half of the set until Sopitan scored a kill followed by a solo block for a three-point lead at 12-9.
The Wolfpack didn’t stop there though and continued to push forward to take a lead 15-10 at the media timeout. When the Wolfpack didn’t relent on its lead, the Tar Heels tried using a timeout to throw off the Pack’s momentum.
The Tar Heels would try the tactic a second time by calling a timeout to prevent any more damage when the Pack reached 20 points. However, both attempts failed to slow down the momentum the Pack had built and it continued its 6-1 run to take a commanding 23-15 lead.
The Wolfpack only gave up one last point before it finished off the Tar Heels in the third 25-16.
“It was nice beating [UNC],” Pickrell said. “Just clean three sets, no second-guessing.”
The Pack will be back in action on Wednesday, Nov. 21 to face the Syracuse Orange at 2 p.m. in Reynolds Coliseum.