Fall, Volleyball

BC Snaps Losing Streak in Win over UNC, Splits Weekend Series

A home weekend against two North Carolina teams was a perfect opportunity for Boston College volleyball to get back on track. Both UNC and North Carolina State reside in the bottom half of the ACC standings, and both have losing conference records. And the Eagles (13-9, 3-7 Atlantic Coast) managed to capitalize. Although the weekend started with an ugly loss to N.C. State Friday night, BC finally managed to get back in the win column, sweeping UNC Sunday afternoon for its first-ever win over the Tar Heels.

In the first set against UNC, the Tar Heels pulled ahead immediately, as Skylar Wine struck for three kills to stake UNC to an early 8-4 lead. BC erased that lead moments later, as it rolled off six-consecutive points to take the lead at 10-8, then stretched the advantage to 14-11, following a service error. The Tar Heels slowly climbed back in, eventually knotting the set at 17 after McKenna Goss’ error, forcing an Eagles timeout in the process.

After the break in play, the teams continued to fire back and forth. In the end, however, Jewel Strawberry was the difference for BC. After UNC seized a 24-23 lead, the freshman recorded back-to-back kills to give the Eagles set point, and then ended the set three points later with her sixth kill of the frame. The 27-25 set victory gave BC a 1-0 lead in the match.

The second frame was dominated by BC. An early run gave the Eagles a 9-5 lead and led to a Tar Heels timeout. UNC briefly staged a rally, cutting the lead to two points, but from there it was all BC. The Eagles won nine of the next 11 points, as Clare Naughton recorded consecutive kills to stretch the lead to 17-9, and force UNC’s second timeout of the set. The lull in play only helped BC, as it exploded out of the stoppage with an 8-3 run to finish the set. Fittingly, it was again Strawberry who sealed it with a kill, giving the Eagles a commanding 25-12 set victory and a 2-0 lead in the match.

Any thoughts of a Tar Heels comeback were squashed early in the third set. Three-straight errors from UNC attackers provided BC with an early 8-3 lead, and the teams split the next six points as the Eagles took an 11-6 lead into a Tar Heels timeout. UNC briefly reduced the BC lead to two after Destiny Cox’s kill cut the deficit to 14-12, but Naughton hit back-to-back service aces to restore a five-point cushion for BC that it wouldn’t relinquish. Strawberry, Goss, and Sophie West tallied kills on three-consecutive points, and Naughton finished the set off with a kill to give the Eagles a 25-19 set victory and a sweep of the Tar Heels.

The weekend started inauspiciously for the Eagles against N.C. State. In the first set, Cat Balido logged two early kills, but the Wolfpack rattled off four points in a row to take an early 7-4 lead. N.C. State extended the lead to 11-6 after Naughton’s attack error, and the teams split the next eight points as BC trailed, 15-10, at the media timeout. The Eagles attempted to rally and cut the deficit to 23-20 on a kill from Carly Kutschke, but the Wolfpack finished the set three points later, with Kutschke’s attack error handing N.C. State a 25-21 set victory and a 1-0 lead in the match.

The Wolfpack jumped out to another fast start in the second frame, as it immediately claimed a 4-1 advantage after an error from Balido. BC fought back and cut the N.C. State lead to 6-5 after back-to-back kills from Strawberry, but the Wolfpack responded by winning four points in a row, going back up, 10-5, and forcing an Eagles timeout. The teams then traded runs, as BC drew within two points at 15-13 after Goss’s kill, only to see N.C. State go on a 6-1 run of its own to take a 21-14 lead. The Eagles wouldn’t draw any closer than seven points after that, as the Wolfpack won the set, 25-16, on a service ace from Kylie Pickrell.

BC answered in the third set. Unlike the first two, this one was evenly contested from the beginning. The teams split the first 20 points, but the Eagles were finally able to gain some separation with a 5-3 spurt, as Balido’s kill put them up, 15-13, and induced an N.C. State timeout. The stoppage only seemed to help the Eagles, as they won four points in a row out of the break to claim a 19-13 lead and force yet another Wolfpack timeout. N.C. State did gain a little ground, moving with two points after Melissa Evans capped a 4-1 run, but BC was able to hold off the Wolfpack charge. Strawberry and Ally Mullen recorded crucial kills, and the Eagles took the set, 25-21, after a ball-handling error from Pickrell.

The comeback effort ended in the fourth set, and N.C. State closed out the match. The beginning of the set, much like the third, was evenly matched. The teams traded points and were knotted at 15 during a media timeout. Balido led the way for BC with four kills, while Teni Sopitan kept the Wolfpack in it with three kills of her own. But right after the break, N.C. State seized control of the set. Sparked by two more Sopitan kills, the Wolfpack won four-straight points to take a 19-15 lead and didn’t look back from there. Mullen briefly cut the lead to three with a kill, but it was too little too late, as Lauryn Terry finished the match with her ninth kill to give N.C. State the set, 25-21, and the match, 3-1.

The weekend was certainly a mixed bag for the Eagles. They snapped out of a lengthy losing streak with a dominant win over a struggling UNC team, but also played poorly against a mediocre N.C. State, hitting just .138 with 27 errors. As far as Eagles fans are concerned, BC’s up-and-down weekend was promising—at the same time, it’s still clear that the Eagles’ resurgence is far from complete.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

October 22, 2018