Coming off of a 3-1 victory against Wake Forest, the Tech volleyball team picked up two straight ACC losses, one from NC State and the other from North Carolina. The Jackets fell to the NC State Wolfpack on Sept. 30 at O’Keefe Gym after winning the first two sets. Tech was also handed a loss in three sets by the North Carolina Tar Heels on Oct. 1 at home, ending the weekend with an 8-7 overall, 1-4 ACC record on the season.
Against the Wolfpack on Friday night, Tech won the first two sets 25-20, 25-20, but was swept by NC State in the last three sets 23-25, 22-25, and 18-20. In the first set, the Jackets used a 6-1 run to take the lead in the first set 9-4, but NC State fought to trade a series of points through the rest of the set. Though the first set was close, saves from junior libero Nicki Meyer and kills from junior rightside hitter Monique Mead gave the Jackets some breathing room. Ultimately, Tech relied on Wolfpack errors and a nice play by sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Percy to get a 25-20 first-set win. NC State’s .133 hitting percentage kept the Wolfpack from staying in the set, compared to Tech’s .412 hitting percentage.
The second set was nearly identical to the first. Senior middle blocker Asia Stawicka and Mead combined for three blocks and 13 total kills. It appeared that Tech would easily go up 2-0 early on in the set, but a persistent NC State fought back to lead the Jackets by a point. In a response to the Wolfpack’s run, Tech scored seven straight points to take a 24-19 lead. Four of the seven were kills from Mead, and one was from a Stawicka-Mead block. With her eighth kill of the set, Mead led the Jackets to a 25-20 victory over NC State in the second set and a 2-0 lead.
In set three, the Wolfpack found some success and halted the Jacket offense to get a 25-23 victory to avoid the sweep by Tech. NC State had six blocks and ten digs to limit Tech to hitting .171, a great increase from the Jackets’ .312 of the first two sets. The Wolfpack took advantage of the seven Tech errors in the set in order to earn key points to maintain their lead.
Set four was plagued by errors from both teams, but the Wolfpack took more care during their possessions and the Jackets fell to NC State 25-22. In the fifth set, the Wolfpack finished off Tech in a 20-18 upset. In this set, three of the 12 Tech service errors in the match were committed, including one that led to a tie in the set at 16-16. After two lead changes, NC State tied the set at 18-18, and a block and kill by NC’s senior middle blocker Margaret Salata ended the match.
“We didn’t realize that NC State wasn’t going to lay down. They came back hard, and they came back fighting. It was just a couple small errors that sent them over the edge. We just [have] to be able to put the ball away, to finish and close,” Mead said.
At the end of the upset match, Mead had nine digs, six block assists, and 27 kills, leading all players in kills. Percy had 13 kills, while Stawicka and sophomore middle blocker Quinn Evans logged 12 apiece. Stawicka, falling shy of a double-double, had a match-best nine block assists. Freshman middle blocker/outside hitter Courtney Felinski added four kills. On the defensive end, Meyer notched 25 digs.
The Jackets faced North Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 1 while hosting the Dig for the Cure night for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The Tar Heels, who are 12-3 and undefeated in ACC play, swept Tech in three sets.
The first set was back-and-forth to eventually go in favor of North Carolina in a 28-26 victory. Both teams had multiple chances to take the set, but the Tar Heels were more effective on blocking and kills to gain points. UNC’s Cora Harms and Cameron Von Noy had a key block to set up the set win and a 1-0 lead. For Tech, Stawicka amassed four kills and a block to keep set one close.
Stawicka finished the match with 11 kills on 17 attempts for a .647 hitting percentage.
Setting the tone early with blocks in set two, the Tar Heels quickly gained point advantage. This set was similar to set one with points going back-and-forth, but North Carolina notched seven straight points from the service line to bring the score to 19-11.
Attempting to keep Tech within striking opportunity, Mead and Stawicka both had four kills in the set. Errors were problematic for both teams, but a Tar Heel kill ended in the set at 25-18 and put North Carolina up 2-0 for the match.
In the third set, Tech changed its lineup, substituting in sophomore setter Kaleigh Colson and junior middle blocker Alexis Woodson. Leading most of set three, the Jackets used the change to their benefit. But, a late run by the Tar Heels gave North Carolina the win with a close 27-25 set win and the overall victory.
“We errored ourselves out. We played for ourselves and them too; we did the work for them…you can’t win games working for the opponent. At the end of the day, we need people to step up and we didn’t have that neither tonight nor last night. We started off strong and lost our confidence in the end, and you just can’t win matches that way,” said Head Coach Tonya Johnson.
With a .647 hitting percentage, Stawicka had four blocks and a team-high 11 kills on 17 attempts for the match against North Carolina, while Mead amassed 10 kills. Offensive execution was an issue for the Jackets during both matches against NC State and North Carolina.
Tech will face Maryland Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. to continue ACC play and Boston College the following Sunday at 1 p.m., both in O’Keefe Gym.