LEXINGTON, Ky. - The UNC volleyball team defeated Long Beach State 3-2 (23-25, 25-22, 25-14, 22-25, 15-12) Saturday at Memorial Coliseum. Senior Emily McGee recorded her first double-double of the season, leading the Tar Heels with 10 kills and 22 digs, while junior Kayla Berringer tallied 17 kills and sophomore Ece Taner added 28 digs as Carolina finished with a .262 attacking percentage over the 49ers' .170.
"It's always great to get that first win of the season, so we're excited about that," head coach Joe Sagula said. "It was a hard fought match for sure, and I think this was a character win for us. We found different ways to be successful, and a lot of people contributed for a great team effort. Long Beach had some really good play, especially from Janisa Johnson who played phenomenal today. It was hard to stop her, and she really had a career game."
"But for us, we really played well as a team, and I thought that was really important for building the confidence of our team, to be able to play a match like that and win it in five. This will give us the confidence we need to move forward throughout the season and as we get ready to play Lipscomb in just a couple of hours."
Carolina dropped the first set 25-23 despite sophomore Ece Taner grabbing eight digs for the Tar Heels, and senior Emily McGee adding four. Battling back and forth most of the set, neither team led by more than four points until the 49ers were able to finish strong with a five-point run for the win.
Tied 22-22, the Tar Heels were the team with the strong finish, closing out the second set with three straight points to win 25-22. McGee had six kills and five digs, and Taner had six digs. Chaney LaReau had two service aces to add to the Carolina offense, while the Tar Heels had four blocks over the 49ers two.
UNC opened the third frame with a 6-1 run and didn't look back the rest of the set, leading by as many as 12 points throughout play. Leading 24-13 at set-point, the 49ers were able to grab one more point before the Tar Heels finished the set off a kill by senior Tia Gaffen. LaReau added another service ace for UNC as McGee and Taner combined for 11 of the Tar Heels' 16 digs.
Long Beach State rallied back strong as the 49ers were the team with the 6-1 opening run at the start of the fourth set. Down 24-20, the Tar Heels held on after a kill by Gaffen and then a block by Gaffen and Harms, but the 49ers forced a fifth set after a kill by Chisom Okpala to win 25-22. Junior Kaitlyn Anderson had four digs, Gaffen had four kills, and Harms tallied 12 assists.
The 49ers opened the fifth set with the first two points before the Tar Heels forged a 7-3 run and led the remainder of the set. McGee and Taner each had five digs to lead the Carolina defense, and Berringer had six kills.
North Carolina will face Lipscomb this evening at 6 p.m. in the team's final game at the Kentucky Classic. Stay tuned to GoHeels.com for scores and recaps, and follow the Tar Heels on Twitter for in-game updates.