The NC State volleyball team lost its ACC opener in Reynolds Coliseum against the No. 12 UNC Tar Heels, three sets to two. NC State came into this game as heavy underdogs but gave Chapel Hill all it could handle. The intensity was in Reynolds for this rivalry game. State matched that intensity on the court but ultimately missed opportunities diminished its chance to pull off the upset.
In the first set, the Heels put their best foot forward as they played a clean game. As a team they had a hitting percentage of 31 and only accrued four errors (two service errors and two attack errors) on 42. The Wolfpack sputtered out of the gates with an 8.7 hitting percentage which was probably affected by its 10 errors. If there was a bright spot for the team out of this set it would definitely be the play of junior outside hitter Perry Ramsey. She registered five kills and only one error in 11 total attempts.
In the next set, roles were reversed as fans saw the Tar Heels overwhelmed by the Pack’s service runs. Another factor that contributed to State’s success was the fact that it had three less errors than the Heels. It also went on a 5-1 run when it was up 18-17 late in this set that pretty much sealed it. Up until that point it was a back and forth affair. The third set brought more of the same.
The third set saw a determined State team grind out a tough set with effort and grit. This set was a war of attrition that the Pack came out on the winning end of. The teams were equal in errors but the more telling statistic from this set were the 11 ties that occurred. Although State was leading 19-12 late in the set it only won by four points. This set featured runs by both sides as well as point for point battling to start it off. After this set the Pack failed to capitalize on the 2-1 set lead.
“When you go up 2-1 on a team like that you need to continue to maintain and keep your level high but we didn’t,” said NC State head coach Linda Hampton-Keith.
The dropoff of intensity by State became clear and pronounced over the next two sets. The team had as many errors as kills, which is pretty much always a losing formula. UNC won the fourth and fifth set by a combined score of 40-21. There were no ties or lead changes after in these sets after the five-point mark was reached.
Afterwards, Keith she reiterated her expectations for this team.
“There are no moral victories,” Keith said. “At the end of the day a win is a win and a loss is a loss.”
This defies conventional wisdom because normally if a team that did not make the tournament in the previous year takes a top-15 team to five sets the comments are more along the lines of how close the team is to being an elite team. However, the high expectations that the coach holds her players to will hopefully pay off for the team with an NCAA tournament bid in the near future.
The Pack is hoping to bounce back by winning its first conference road game of the season this Sunday at Syracuse.