Boston College volleyball snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Sunday, falling three sets to two against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. After BC jumped out to a quick 2-0 set lead, the Tar Heels pulled the trigger on a tactical adjustment that turned the tide of the match back in their favor.
“They made a change in how they were attacking out of the middle,” head coach Chris Campbell said after the game. “It took us two-thirds of that third set to figure out how to block and defend it, which we eventually did. I thought we did a nice job, but that put us in a hole off the start.”
Once UNC changed gears in the middle of the third set, it wasn’t long before the Eagles’ yarn ball of energy began to unravel. “I think our energy kinda dropped, and we started making a little more mistakes than we were in the first two sets,” senior setter Mallori Moffat said after the match. “I think that affected our energy, and we just weren’t able to come back after that.”
Sophomore outside hitter Sol Calvete, who recorded six kills in each of the first two sets, saw her production neutralized in the final three frames, as the Tar Heels held her to three, two, and two, respectively. Swiss army knife Katty Workman, who spikes the ball with more power than a Mike Tyson uppercut, couldn’t quite slam the ball over the top of UNC’s frontline defense and finished with a measly .093 hit percentage.
Momentum was riding high for Sunday’s match as the team prepared for its senior day bout with the Tar Heels, and the bleachers in Power Gym were packed with family members and friends. No matter, BC couldn’t whip up any senior day magic to win a second consecutive game.
The 3-2 loss comes on the heels of a victory Friday night at home against the North Carolina State Wolfpack. It was a welcome result and only the Eagles’ third win in ACC play. “I think that was really good just for our morale,” Moffat said. “We needed that win at this point in the season. The second half of the season’s always hard, so that was kind of like a positive push for us to finish the season on a high note.”
Against the Wolfpack, Workman recorded a team-high 14 kills, and freshman McKenna Goss chipped in with nine kills of her own. After winning the first set and dropping the second, the Eagles took flight and didn’t look back, decisively securing the next two sets en route to a 3-1 victory.
With the Tar Heels, winners of 10 of their last 11, on their way to Chestnut Hill, BC’s confidence was riding high, and, through two sets, it looked as though the momentum from Friday night’s victory had spilled over into Sunday.
Campbell had a defensive emphasis during practice in the lead-up to Sunday’s match. “Their middles have been the heart of their offense the entire season, so we really wanted to work on blocking, defending them well,” Campbell said of UNC’s approach. “We’d done exactly that. I thought we did a really nice job of that, and that’s why they had to change what they were doing in the middle, and we forced that change.”
The problem is, when you force a team to make an adjustment, you’d better be ready for that counter-punch. The Eagles couldn’t quite keep it together, and when things turned south, mental fatigue set in. “We lost composure just a little bit,” Campbell said. “We had been playing great volleyball, and you play great volleyball by doing simple things and just doing them consistently and repeatedly. We got a little bit away from that.”
Still, there were some silver linings for BC. For instance, Moffat recorded her second-ever “pancake” in the third set by slipping an open hand under the ball just as it neared the floor. “I actually never pancake,” Moffat said with a laugh. “I always hit it with a closed hand, so I was pretty excited.” Not to be outdone, junior libero Madisen Lydon hit the deck for a pancake of her own.
Fun bits aside, the performance was the ultimate tease for fans of BC. “We had some opportunities and just weren’t able to capitalize on them,” Campbell said. “Obviously UNC’s a good program, and when you don’t jump on those opportunities which we had done in the first couple sets, then they make you pay for it.”
Featured Image by Jordan Pentaleri / Heights Graphic