Atlanta, Ga. – After six straight matches in the Triangle, Carolina volleyball took the show on the road on Friday night, topping Georgia Tech, 3-1, in ACC play. The Tar Heels overcame a slow start to win the first set, 25-22, then suffered a 25-8 setback in the second. Carolina emerged from the locker room focused and ready, winning the next two sets, 25-19 and 25-18, to capture the match in four. The win lifts UNC to 10-8 (7-2 ACC), while Georgia Tech falls to 13-8 (4-5 ACC).
“This was a huge win for us,” said head coach Joe Sagula. “This is a really tough environment to play in. I thought that Georgia Tech played great. They just get after it and are so good at home. To come out of this with a victory tonight was a big step for us.
“I thought we played really athletic. In the end, I thought our athleticism really took a step up. It was a great overall team effort. It sends a message for our team of how tough we can play on the road. It’s going to be like this throughout the rest of the season, so it’s a very important win.”
“Taylor Treacy and Taylor Leath were phenomenal,” said Sagula. “Leigh played great. It was just a great team effort, because you knew they they were keying on our middles a lot. The middles still stayed aggressive and helped set up our pins today.”
Setters Jordyn Schnabl and Abigail Curry both had double-doubles in the match, as Schnabl had 23 assists and 13 digs while Curry put up 18 and 10. Sheila Doyle posted her second 20-dig performance in three matches, recording 20 to go with seven assists and a service ace.
The Tar Heel blocking unit took time to get going, but stuffed seven in the final set to total 13.0 for the night, led by Paige Neuenfeldt who had seven blocks to go with seven kills. Treacy stuffed six and Victoria McPherson contributed an additional five.
True freshman Madison Laufenberg made her first career appearance in ACC play, replacing Taylor Fricano on the right side late in the second set and totaling three kills, a block and a dig over the final two-and-a-half sets.
“I was really proud of Madison Laufenberg coming off the bench and doing a good job,” said Sagula. “We needed some change and it really helped us. It was her first time playing this much, she stepped in and really gave us some positive play.”
Carolina had no answer for Tech junior Teegan Van Gunst, who slammed 20 kills and put up 17 digs, but the Tar Heels limited the Yellow Jackets to hitting just .190 as a team.
Georgia Tech won the first three points of the match, then raced out to an 11-6 lead. However, three kills by Treacy pulled the Tar Heels within one, 12-11, then two kills and a block by Leath gave UNC the lead, 14-12. Carolina maintained the advantage until an errant attack re-tied the score at 18, but UNC forced right back ahead, and a kill out of the back middle by Andrew closed out the first set in the Tar Heels’ favor, 25-22.
The second set was all Yellow Jackets, as Georgia Tech raced to a 25-8 victory, hitting .560 while holding Carolina to -.137.
The Tar Heels burst out of the locker room after the break and quickly made the second set a distant memory, winning the first four points of the third and cruising to a 12-3 lead. Carolina seemed destined for easy victory, pulling further ahead, 21-10, but Georgia Tech did not back down, winning six straight to cut the deficit in half, 21-16. Leath crushed a kill after a UNC timeout to end the run, and an ace by Doyle made it Carolina set point. Teegan Van Gunst struck two Yellow Jacket kills, but Andrew fired a missile at the back row to finish out the frame, 25-19.
“To show the resiliency to come back in the third set and put that second set out of our minds was an important test for our team, for our character and our competitive nature,” said Sagula.
The fourth set was much closer than the previous two, as Carolina began with a 5-1 lead but Georgia Tech hung tough, never letting the Tar Heels too far in front. Despite the Yellow Jackets’ tenacity, the Tar Heels continued to charge forward, maintaining a lead of at least three throughout the entire set and pulling away down the stretch to win, 25-18, and take the match in four.
The Tar Heels next travel to Clemson, South Carolina, where they will take on the Clemson Tigers on Sunday, Oct. 25, at 1 p.m.