DURHAM, N.C. - No. 14 North Carolina dropped a 3-2 (25-17, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 19-21) heartbreaker to No. 15 Duke on Friday, closing out the regular season with a 27-4, 16-4 ACC mark.
A chance for a share in the ACC title slipped through the Tar Heels' hands as Duke (27-4, 18-2) forced the match to five sets, taking the final frame in extra points to clinch an automatic bid and earn its 11th ACC title.
"This is a match we'll look back on with a lot of missed opportunities," head coach Joe Sagula said. "I give Duke a lot of credit for coming back and hanging in there in the fourth set. When you're up 22-14, you should be able to finish. This is a tough one that will sting for a while, and to Duke's credit, they played well. This is a match of so many missed opportunities."
"This was about as an exciting match as you'll ever see between two good teams, and I give Duke credit for being able to come up on top by two points at the end. I'm proud of how hard our team worked today, and I thought we played great at times, but that's not enough - we need to learn how to finish," Sagula said.
Paige Neuenfeldt tied her season-high marks of 14 kills and seven blocks to lead UNC, while Victoria McPherson registered 13 kills and seven blocks and Hayley McCorkle finished with 13 kill and three blocks. Lauren Adkins added 12 kills for UNC.
The Tar Heels started off strong, taking set on 25-17 behind a combined nine kills and three blocks from Lauren Adkins and Victoria McPherson. UNC held Duke to just a .064 hitting percentage, taking advantage of the Blue Devils' nine errors in the opening frame.
Down 19-14 in set two, UNC evened the score at 22-22 before an untimely attack error and service error helped give Duke the 25-23 win. Neuenfeldt had four kills with a block, and Leigh Andrew, McPherson and Adkins each had three kills for UNC, but Duke's Elizabeth Campbell had six kills to help lift the Blue Devils.
Set three was tied at 22-22, but Carolina held on to take it 25-22 as McCorkle posted five kills and two blocks. Neuenfeldt added two kills and three blocks, and McPherson added two kills and two blocks for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina gave up an eight-point lead at 22-14 as Duke claimed the fourth set, 25-23. The Tar Heels hit just .098 with eight errors as Elizabeth Campbell and Jordan Tucker combined for eight kills and three blocks for the Blue Devils. Neuenfeldt had four kills with a block for UNC.
The Blue Devils staved off seven match points to take the final frame 21-19 and clinch the ACC title. Neuenfeldt and McPherson each had three kills and combined for three blocks, but several more untimely errors, including two service errors, didn't help Carolina in its quest.
Up Next: NCAA Selection Show
The Tar Heels find out what's on tap for the postseason during the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show on Sunday, Dec. 1. The Selection Show will air on ESPNU at 9:30 p.m.