October 9, 2009
Wild thriller ends in Tech's favor, as Hokies down Heels
Tech snaps four-match losing streak to North Carolina
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North Carolina (7-9) 29161525102
Virginia Tech (13-5) 27252516153
  • Cassell Coliseum - 1,109

BLACKSBURG, Va. – In a wild five-set match, the Virginia Tech volleyball squad took down North Carolina, 3-2 (27-29, 25-16, 25-15, 16-25, 15-10) in Cassell Coliseum on Friday night.

“It is really hard to describe, but for anyone who knows our team, we can look the best in the world and we can look pretty bad at times,” Tech head coach Chris Riley said. “The fourth game was the only game we really got out of rhythm [tonight]. It was unfortunate for us, but we pulled through.”

Four different players tallied double-digit kills for Tech (13-5, 3-4 ACC) in the thriller, while sophomore Erin Leaser and freshman Morgan O’Neill both earned double-doubles. Leaser dished out 51 assists and added 13 digs for her fifth double-double of the season, while O’Neill recorded her second double-double on the year with 12 kills and 24 digs.

The opening period set the tone for the contest with eight lead changes and 10 tie scores. After jockeying back and forth early on, Tech reached 10 first, pulling out to a 10-7 advantage. After the Hokies added another point, a 6-0 run gave the Tar Heels (7-9, 3-2 ACC) a 13-11 advantage. North Carolina eventually pushed the lead to 17-12, when Tech started chipping away. The Hokies tied the set at 20 apiece, and the two teams battled the rest of the way, tying the frame six more times. Back-to-back kills by the Tar Heels’ Heather Brooks and Courtney Johnson sealed the set for North Carolina, 29-27.

The Hokies continued their solid play into the second stanza. Again the two teams stayed close early in the frame, and found themselves tied at 15-15, when a timely 8-0 run by Tech all but put the Tar Heels away in the period. North Carolina could only muster one more point in the frame, as the Hokies won set two, 25-16.

Tech’s momentum carried over into the third period, as the Hokies pressed out to a 10-4 advantage. Tech doubled the Tar Heels up at 14-7 and extended the lead to 19-11. North Carolina never mounted another threat, as the Hokies ran away with the third stanza, 25-15. Junior Felicia Willoughby connected on six of her seven attacks in the set to pace the Hokies.

North Carolina responded in set four though, jumping out to a quick 10-4 lead of their own. Tech cut the margin to 23-15, but could get no closer, as the Tar Heels won the set 25-16. The Hokies hit -.024 to North Carolina’s .214 in the stanza.

The pivotal set five went the Hokies way, as Tech held the Tar Heels to a -.148 hitting percentage and forced eight attack errors in the shortened period. The Hokies quickly won the first three points, and maintained the breathing room all the way to 11-8. North Carolina cut the lead to two at 11-9, when a 3-0 run put the Hokies in the driver’s seat for the frame. Freshman Cara Baarendse’s 13th kill of the affair put North Carolina away in the set, 15-10, and the match, 3-2.

Along with O’Neill and Baarendse, Willoughby landed 16 kills on the night, while Record led the Hokies with 18 kills. Defensively the Hokies performed well, as senior Jill Gergen led the Hokies from the back row with 26 digs, along with O’Neill’s 24, and Willoughby recorded six blocks in the contest.

“Morgan defensively was unbelievable tonight,” Riley said. “For a front row and back row player to get 24 digs is pretty incredible. She made some great touches on some balls. I am pretty proud of the way she is playing.”

As a team, the Hokies hit .182 in the contest, and limited North Carolina to a .104 hitting percentage. Tech blocked 12 attacks, while the Tar Heels stuffed nine attacks of their own. The Hokies dug 96 attacks as a squad, matching their season high. The victory by the Hokies snapped a four-match losing streak to the Tar Heels.

Tech gets a week off now, and returns to Cassell Coliseum next Friday and Saturday. The Hokies will face Georgia Tech on Friday at 7 p.m., and Clemson on Saturday at 4 p.m. Results will be available on hokisports.com.

For updates on Virginia Tech volleyball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_VBall).

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