Spartan volleyball takes down North Carolina in four sets

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Jack Stager

The Spartan volleyball team improved their winning record at home with a four-set win over North Carolina on Sunday.

EAST LANSING, MICH. – The Michigan State Spartan volleyball team returned to the Breslin Center Sunday and squared off against the University of North Carolina. After a tough 3-0 loss against another ACC opponent in the Duke Blue Devils this past Friday, the 4-3 Spartans looked to continue their non-conference success against the 4-2 Tar Heels.

The last time these two powerhouse schools met was a year ago when Michigan State fell to North Carolina, 3-0, at Chapel Hill. This time around with home-court advantage, the Spartans looked to flip the script on the Tar Heels.

In the first set of action, the Tar Heels came out hot, capitalizing on Michigan State’s first few mistakes and gaining a 7-2 lead which forced a Spartan timeout. Head coach Leah Johnson gathered her team and the Spartans discovered their rhythm after the slow start and took a 13-11 lead, which led to North Carolina head coach Mike Schall taking his first timeout. Michigan State didn’t hold back once they got the lead, winning the first set 25-20 behind Taylah Holdems’ four kills on 10 attacks and Cameron Berger’s seven assists. However, dominance on the attack side of the net wasn’t the Spartan’s biggest ally in the first set, as the Tar Heels had eight attack errors compared to Michigan State’s three.

Both teams returned and a back-and-forth second set kicked off and after five errors from the Tar Heels, Michigan State found themselves with a 10-8 lead. North Carolina then went on an 8-3 scoring run, taking a 16-13 lead. Spartan head coach Leah Johnson then decided to talk it over with her team, taking her second timeout of the second set. A close battle continued as both teams needed four points while it was tied, 21-21. North Carolina then took all four points, tying the match score at 1-1. Mabrey Shaffmaster and Emani’ Foster put North Carolina right back in it with the Spartans as they had a combined 19 kills through the first two sets of action. 

It was all about limiting the errors in the third set as Michigan State took a 15-12 lead while the teams shared a combined 12 errors, with the Spartans having seven of those errors. Not letting up and staying poised allowed Michigan State to go on a 9-3 scoring run, led by Taylah Holdem’s six kills in the third set. When the net cleared, the Tar Heels accumulated eight errors alone in the third set of play. 

Dominance continued for the Spartans in the fourth set as they commanded a 6-2 lead, forcing Schall to take his first timeout. Holdem continued her match dominance with five kills in the fourth set through the first 13 points, allowing Michigan State to take an 11-2 lead and causing Schall to use his second timeout of the fourth set. The Tar Heels found some rhythm and went on a 10-6 scoring run, capitalizing on a trio of aces from Foster and bringing the deficit to five as Michigan State led 17-12. The Spartans, surrounded by their home crowd, put the finishing touches on set number four, with a 6-1 scoring run, winning the fourth set 25-15 and the match, 3-1.

The Tar Heels couldn’t catch any momentum after winning the second set and finished with an 11% hitting percentage and 36 errors in the match. The Spartans improved to 4-2 at the Breslin Center and 5-3 overall. They will be packing their bags to travel to Connecticut for the Dog Pound Invitational next weekend before conference play begins at the end of the month.

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