No. 15 North Carolina Stuns No. 16 Illini in Three Sets
Sept. 20, 2013
Chapel Hill, N.C. – The University of Illinois headed to the East Coast for the final weekend of nonconference play, opening a pair of ACC matchups at No. 15 North Carolina. The Tar Heels extended their undefeated season to 10 matches with a swift victory over No. 16 Illinois, 25-18, 25-15, 25-17. North Carolina (10-0) won its 26th-straight match at Carmichael Arena, while the Illini drop below .500 for the first time this season at 4-5.
“We did not come out prepared to play, and we didn’t fight back, which is even more disappointing,” said Head Coach Kevin Hambly. “We can’t quit. I don’t mind losing if it’s a good battle; they’re a good team. But I’m not ok with the way we came out.”
North Carolina held Illinois to its lowest hitting percentage of the season, at just .073, as the Illini offense mustered just 26 kills in the 3-set match. Jocelynn Birks led the team with eight kills, marking the first time this season she was held to single digits, while fellow outside hitters Liz McMahon and Morganne Criswell had six and five, respectively.
A bright spot for the Illini was their continued success at the net, as the Orange and Blue registered eight blocks in the match, including three each by Birks and Maddie Mayers.
The Tar Heels, who entered the match tied with Illinois at 2.70 blocks per set, narrowly out-blocked the Illini 9.5-8.0, led by six stuffs by Paige Neuenfeldt. On the attack, Jovana Bjelica led the match with 14 kills, followed by Victoria McPherson with nine. Libero Ece Taner had a match-high 20 digs, and Leigh Andrew added 14 digs to go along with seven kills.
Illinois struggled to put any good runs together throughout the match, as North Carolina sided out at 78 percent as compared to just 52 percent by the Illini. While the Illini were able to keep UNC from going on any extremely long runs, with the Tar Heels rarely scoring more than three or four straight points, Illinois was never able to reply with a run of its own, causing the Orange and Blue to fall further and further behind as each set wore on.
The Illini took their first lead of the match at the start of set three, when Illinois opened the third frame with a Dorn kill and a Beltran ace. However, a 5-0 run put the Tar Heels right back in front, 5-2, and they never trailed again, cruising ahead 16-9 and, after a few tries at set point, finished out the sweep with a 25-17 win in the third.
“There’s a reason they’re 10-0,” said Hambly. “They’re a good volleyball team, and we had our work cut out for us.”
The Illini are back in action on Saturday night just down Tobacco Road at fellow-ACC member Duke. The Illini will wrap up nonconference play against the Blue Devils at 5:30 p.m. CT.