ATHENS, Ohio - After trailing 2-0, No. 24 Carolina came back to defeat the Bobcats 3-2 in front of a packed crowd of 3,874 on Ohio's home court.
Jovana Bjelica tallied 16 kills and a block to lead the Tar Heels to their first 5-0 season start since 2002. Three other players posted double-digit kills while Carolina totaled 10 team blocks in an exciting victory.
"It was unbelievable to come back on the road in this environment against a really good team," head coach Joe Sagula said. "I just couldn't be any prouder right now. I'm at a loss for words, full of pride in the team and how they hung together. After the way we played the first two sets, we set our sights on winning the third set, and doing that gave us momentum throughout the rest of the match."
Sagula explained the transformation from the first two sets to the final three as a "tale of two matches." The squad that took the court for the last three frames found a rhythm that was missing the first two sets.
"The longer the match went on, the people who struggled early in the set got better," Sagula said. "It wasn't the prettiest match, but we found ways to score points with sheer determination tonight. It was a great team effort, and this will really go a long way in giving them confidence throughout the rest of the year."
Both teams were pretty even through the first set, with Ohio taking the 25-23 win. Ohio's Karin Bull and Kelly Lamberti each had four kills, and Alexis Pinson had five blocks to lead the Bobcats. Kayla Berringer had five kills and a block, and Jovana Bjelica added four kills, but the Tar Heels were held to just a .080 team attack in the opening frame.
Despite a much-improved .320 team attack in the second set, Ohio pulled away to win 25-16 while hitting a solid .519. Paige Neuenfeldt and Jovana Bjelica each had three kills, but Pinson tallied four kills and two blocks for the Bobcats.
Carolina bounced back to take set three 25-18 as Bjelica tacked on four more kills to lead the charge. The Tar Heels hit a more-improved .351 as Andrew, Neuenfeldt and Lauren Adkins each added another three kills.
UNC took set four 25-22 led by Andrew's four kills and four digs. Bjelica tallied four kills as well, and Neuenfeldt added three blocks as the Tar Heels forced a fifth set.
The Tar Heels came out on a roll in the final set, claiming the match victory with a 15-8 final frame win. McPherson's two kills and three blocks helped secure the outcome, while the Tar Heels limited Ohio to just a .038 team attack.
North Carolina closes out play at the Bobcat Invitational with a match against Cincinnati Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Follow live stats for that match here.