Two Boston College players stared at the ball as it dropped neatly in between them. Both were poised and ready to hit it, but tentative reactions kept them from acting. Instead, they stared at the ball as it fell. BC’s chance to win the second set against North Carolina dropped with the ball.
In many ways, this simple moment sums up the weekend for the Eagles—there were opportunities, but BC (5-7, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) was never able to take advantage of them. After two tough losses to Northeastern and Harvard the weekend prior, the Eagles were looking to open up ACC play with a pair of wins against Syracuse (2-10, 1-1) and No. 12 North Carolina (10-2, 2-0). It wouldn’t turn out that way in either case.
The first set against North Carolina was off to a promising start, as the teams kept pace with each other and the game was still tied late at 17-17. North Carolina then went on a 9-2 run that gave it the 25-19 win. BC committed several errors that helped give the Tar Heels a one-set advantage as the teams moved into the second set.
Despite close scoring early, UNC dominated the beginning of the second set. North Carolina was finally able to capitalize on this momentum as it went up 18-10 on BC, which struggled to maintain a setting series. This set featured many long rallies and spectacular diving saves, especially by BC’S Devon Michaelis, but tentative play by BC resulted in a North Carolina 25-17 second-set victory.
The third set marked a transition for BC, according to head coach Chris Campbell.
“We talked about how late in a game you just have to go for it, and to my complete amazement they bought it and did exactly that,” Campbell said. “They just, from that point on they never backed down and that is the mentality that you got to have.”
The beginning of the third set had a similar feel to the first two sets. Midway through it, the Eagles found themselves tied 16-16. This set, BC did not let itself get overwhelmed as it had in the previous two sets, as it went on a 7-3 run to win the third set. The fourth set followed suit, with BC maintaining its momentum to pull ahead early. It was challenged by the Tar Heels, who were able to pull within two, but BC responded quickly and withstood the challenge to pull ahead 21-16 via a 4-2 run led by several kills from McKenna Gross. BC continued these attacks to win the competitive fourth set 25-21 to force a fifth set.
The fifth set was intense from the first serve, with the entire match at stake. The teams exchanged points and found themselves tied 15-15, at which point they continued to trade off serves. Neither team was able to get up by the required two points to win the set, so the game continued with fierce play until an attack error by the Eagles finally gave the Tar Heels the set and the match.
The North Carolina match featured a lot of impressive play from the Eagles, mostly notably by freshman Jill Strockis, who shined this game with 12 kills, as well as Sophie West, who led the Eagles with a .333 hitting percentage. Sol Calvete also continued to make her mark, as she contributed 13.5 points to the BC effort.
BC opened the weekend on Friday against Syracuse. Neither team could maintain long scoring stretches. Soon, however, Syracuse grabbed hold of the momentum and never let go. The Orange went on an 8-3 scoring run midway into the game, until a kill from Sophie West momentarily stopped the surge of Syracuse. After another brief period of back and forth, BC pulled within three points, but it couldn’t pull close to Syracuse, as the Orange soon took the set 25–18.
Despite an impressive kill by Anna Skold to secure BC the first points of the set, the momentum of the first set carried with Syracuse into the second set. The Orange scored 12 unanswered points, including three aces via sophomore Jalisa Trotter, to put Syracuse up 12-1 early in the set. The rest of the match followed suit, with BC losing the second set 25-12 to put the team at a two-set disadvantage for the match.
Going into a must-win set, BC needed to take control early to make sure that it did not suffer a repeat of the second set. This is exactly what it did, as BC took an immediate lead that it never gave up. Syracuse pulled within one midway through the match, but BC remained unfazed as it responded to this challenge with an 11-2 run that featured many impressive kills by Gross. BC took the third set 25-15 to set up a fourth set that again served as a must-win opportunity for the Eagles.
The fourth set was competitive from the beginning, with the lead bouncing back and forth from Syracuse to BC. The Eagles retained the lead for a portion of the game, but the Orange fought back and tied the game 16-16, later allowing it to take the lead from BC. Despite strong play from Calvete and Sophie West late in the game, the Orange was able to take a close fourth set—and with it the match—25-21.
BC played well against the Orange in the third and fourth sets, but it couldn’t topple the momentum built up by Syracuse in the first two sets. The first ACC game of the season did not go as the Eagles had hoped, despite great play from Gross and Calvete, who led all players with a .294 hitting percentage. The Eagles could not overcome the force of the Syracuse duo of Gorelina and Weaker, who led the game in kills with 13 and 12 kills, respectively.
BC’s first two ACC games left much to be desired. The Eagles had multiple opportunities in both matches to take control of the game and get the win, but errors and tentative play prevented the Eagles from taking advantage. The courage BC played with at the end of the North Carolina match was a hopeful sign, as it showed how great BC can be when put under pressure. Moving forward into the ACC portion of their schedule, the Eagles need to find a way to replicate this fire throughout entire games and not just in short spurts of competitive play.
Featured Image by Taylor Perison / Heights Staff