Match report: Wake Forest vs North Carolina (8)


It's the second night of North Carolina's weekend homestand against in-state rivals.This rivalry's not nearly so fierce as the one that featured last night, but the Carolina schools always gun for one another. No matter the sport, no matter the season.

Wake rode a pretty soft non-conference schedule to an 11-1start to this season, with their best win in that stretch probably being against East Tennessee State (a tournament team last year, but still, ACC vs A-Sun) and their loss coming to Cal State Fullerton. They come into tonight 1-4 in the ACC, with a come-from-behind five-setter against new kids on the ACC block Notre Dame their lone victory in league.

The Demon Deacons got three on the bump to start the match, siding Carolina out off serve and then claiming two with a Tar Heel hitting error and a kill of their own. The Heels then drew level at 3-all, winning three fairly long rallies. Lauren Adkins led the charge for the Tar Heels, building off her strong showing last night (about the only Carolina player to have one), with her kill giving UNC their first lead on 5-4. Then an awkward little breakdown on the Demon Deacon side led to Carolina's first "true" lead at 6-4. Ece Taner's service run extended to 8-4 before a setter dump by Sophia Dodd finally gave Wake their sideout. A crosscourt kill for Jovana Bjelica a little later again had the Heels double up on the Deacons, at 10-5. The Tar Heels got the next service point with a crosscourt kill for Leigh Andrew off a nice out-of-system set from DS Heather Gearhart. She gave the point back on the next rally by hitting well long, but Carolina still reached 15 easily first, leading by six at the media timeout.

The offensive execution in the first segment of the match was stark, with UNC having kills account for 13 of their 15 points, while Wake had just three for their first nine. A hitting miscue from Kristin Grissom up the middle made it 16-9, and a service ace for Andrew gave the Heels an 8-point advantage. At that, Wake head coach Ken Murczek called time. Another ace for Andrew put the Heels up 18-9, before Grissom got the sideout on the right-side slide attack. At 19-11, Dodd tried the setter dump again but found Bjelica waiting for her in a joust. The ball fell back on Wake's side, and they sent over a really weak return. But Bjelica's next shot had just the opposite problem — way too much on it, and it flew long. No matter — the Heels sided out on the next rally to reach 20 first, and by a healthy 20-12 margin.

The teams mostly traded points the rest of the way. Wake expended their last timeout at 23-15. A hitting error coming out of the timeout brought us to set point for Carolina, and a block-out kill from Adkins made for a 25-15 final.

Carolina's dominance in the first set was shown by how many times they found the floor. They had 18 kills as a team in the first frame, with 8 for Bjelica alone. Wowzers!

Hayley McCorkle, who didn't play last night, got the Tar Heels off to the right start in set 2 with a first-ball sideout from the middle attack. On 2-0, Dodd got her third kill of the match off the setter dump, something Carolina surely had noticed, with plans to tighten up against it. The Demon Deacons kept it tight in the early going of the second set, getting the equaliser at 4-all. Kayla Berringer's hitting error into the net gave Wake their first lead since early in set 1 at 5-4. After the Heels sided out, Gearhart came in to serve in place of Bjelica, and let loose a pretty nice jump-float. It disrupted the Wake attack, leading to a kill for Paige Neuenfeldt up the middle. Andrew then gave the Heels the true lead back with a left-side slide kill to make it 7-5, before Gearhart's ace made it a three-point lead. At that, Wake called time.

But it didn't stop Gearhart's big service run. The Heels' lead extended to 11-5 before a left-side double block against Andrew finally got the Deacons their sideout. Even that was just a band-aid, as Andrew's block put the Heels up seven on 13-6 and a middle block for McCorkle made it 14-6. Grissom, who got blocked again and again as this set wore on, subbed out there. A back-row fault made it 15-6, before Matalee Reed got the kill on the right-side slide attack to get Wake back on the board. They drew back within seven at 16-9 with a service ace from Sam Boesch. What followed was a terrific, long rally, ending with a kill for Kylie Hargreaves to make it 16-10. Adkins then hit into the double block of Dodd and Hanna Lee to make it a five-point set. What looked like a laugher minutes before was a bit more competitive, though Andrew got the kill and sideout for 17-11. Hargreaves actually landed on Andrew's ankle after leaping for her block attempt, and collapsed to the ground for a moment in obvious pain. But she stayed in the match. A net fault against the Decons made it 18-11, and Wake took their last timeout.

Some tough and tricky serving for the Demon Deacons gave them four in a row after the timeout, but the hill before them was just a bit too steep. The Heels sided out on 19-15, making three the closest wake came. A free ball from the Demon Deacon side on the 20-16 led to an easy kill up the middle for Neuenfeldt and a likely-insurmountable five-point lead late. The teams just swapped points the rest of the way, with Carolina converting set point on reception — a middle kill for McCorkle — for a 25-20 final.

The Tar Heels changed up their rotation again a little to start set 3. McCorkle did well to provide the scoring in the early going, figuring into each of the three straight points UNC scored to get to a 3-1 lead. Then Bjelica gave one to the Wake side and got one for her own side on back-to-back swings, keeping the Heels ahead by two.

Taylor Treacy checked in for her first action of the night preceding the Heels' serve at 5-3. She and Neuenfeldt rose up for a block attempt against Bosh, but the ball landed out to give the point to Wake and keep the sideout string rolling. Hargreaves broke the string on Wake's serve at 7-6, getting the kill to draw the set even. A kill for Andrew a short while later put the Tar Heels back up by two at 9-7, and a wide hit by Reed on the middle attack put Carolina up three at 11-8. Bjelica's kill a short while later still made it a four-point set at 13-9, and Wake called timeout.

The Deacons took two in a blink coming out of the timeout to draw within a point, with Neuenfeldt getting the sideout to keep the match from coming even. At 16-15, on Wake's serve, Treacy hit way long, which did tie the set. Wake took the lead on the next rally as Andrew also hit long. McCorkle had the equaliser at 17's not with a full-on swing, but a tricky little tip shot for the sideout. Curiously, Wake called their second charged timeout on 18-17, after just a single Carolina point.

Wake took the lead back at 19-18 following an odd breakdown on defence on the Carolina side, as Taner and McCorkle just kind of watched the ball fall in between them. Wake Forest coach Murczek received a yellow card after the rally ending 19-all. Not exactly sure why, but it was evident that he was crowing about something. Bjelica terminated that subsequent rally to get the Tar Heels to 20 first. A kill for Andrew on the next rally led to Bosh nearly crashing and burning into the courtside "bench" (folding chairs arranged together). Carolina took the next point as well to go up a potentially big 22-19 late, but after a Wake sideout Hargreaves came up with a big solo block up the middle to bring them back within one. 22-21 was a long rally, ending with a McCorkle block to put UNC on the cusp of match point. Paige Neuenfeldt sealed the deal with back-to-back kills.

#10 North Carolina d. Wake Forest (25-15, 25-20, 25-21)

Credit where it's due — Wake didn't hang their heads and just play out the string in this one. They worked really hard, and while it doesn't show too much in the linescore, it's a definite take-away from this match. They showed not only character but some real skill in improving themselves set after set. They kinda got blown out of the gym in the first, let the second slip away about midway through, and were in the third throughout. This is a team that'll hang around with you.

But credit where it's also due — Carolina looked much better tonight than last night. Part of that is the calibre of the opposition, but part of it's them as well. This is the team that won 15 straight (and not in a complete cupcake of a schedule, either) to start the year, not the team who laid an egg (which everyone's allowed to do here and there) last night. Their season trajectory is still one for which most teams would be very grateful.

Hargreaves led the Deacons in scoring, with 11 kills on .323 hitting. Not bad at all. But when your next best scorer is actually your setter (Dodd had 7 kills), that's not really what you want to see. Bjelica led all scorers for Carolina with 16, while Adkins responded to her good showing last night with another one tonight, as she chipped in 12 kills on .273 efficiency. That'll work.

The Heels as a team hit .283, and unless you're on just a gross mismatch, it's hard to do much better than that. After they had nary an ace against Duke last night, Carolina checked in with four tonight, two for Andrew and one each for Gearhart and Chaney LaReau (another DS). They also won the digging and blocking battles for the night — just a well-rounded total team effort.

Wake are on the road next weekend as well, at Georgia Tech and Clemson. Carolina will travel north to face the Virginia schools.

Bill Harvey

About Bill Harvey

Volleyball fanatic and Sports statistician! Growing the sport of Volleyball in all formats everywhere.