North Carolina clinches first ACC title since 2008 with sweep of Wake Forest
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina clinched its first ACC championship since 2008 with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-22) sweep of Wake Forest Friday afternoon.
The victory and resulting championship capped an emotional afternoon, as Carolina honored its four seniors before the match started. Chaney LaReau, Lauren McAdoo, Chaniel Nelson and Ece Taner all started and contributed towards the victory that moved the senior class record to 103-22 during their four years so far in Chapel Hill.
“What a great way to celebrate senior day, and to honor those four seniors,” said head coach Joe Sagula. “Winning a championship is special and it doesn’t happen very often. It took a lot of different things coming together for us and I am so proud of the team.”
Outside hitter Lauren McAdoo paced Carolina with 11 kills and five digs on a .526 hitting percentage. Fellow senior Chaniel Nelson added 13 kills and two blocks against the Demon Deacons.
In set one, McAdoo poured in six kills on only nine attempts to lead the Tar Heels. Setters Abigail Curry and Jordyn Schnabl combined for 11 assists in the set as Carolina knocked down 16 kills as a team with a .464 hitting percentage.
The first frame was tied until the serve of Taner helped Carolina gain a two-point lead at 12-10. McAdoo knocked down a kill to extend the lead to three at 20-17 and force a timeout from Wake Forest.
UNC then finished set one 25-18 with a block by Paige Neuenfeldt and Taylor Treacy.
After a strong finish to set one, Carolina started set two slowly as the Demon Deacons built a 7-3 lead after a UNC error. A three-point run on the serve of Curry, capped by a block from Neuenfeldt and Hayley McCorkle, tied the second frame at 13-13.
Carolina broke the tie at 22-22 with a kill from McCorkle and then an error from Wake Forest to give Carolina set points at 24-22. Leigh Andrew then knocked down a kill to secure set two, 25-23 for North Carolina.
The Tar Heels cruised out of the gate in set three, pounding 18 team kills on a .500 attack percentage in the set. Nelson poured in five kills in the final frame and ended the match with a kill to give Carolina the third game 25-22 and the match 3-0.
Paige Neuenfeldt pounded six kills on a .455 percentage, and turned back five blocks to help hold the Demon Deacon offense in check. Leigh Andrew added seven kills and three digs, while libero Ece Taner led Carolina with eight digs.
Hayley McCorkle added three kills and one block, while Chaney LaReau had three digs and one assist.
With the victory, Carolina volleyball was crowned ACC champions after finishing the regular season with a 26-2 overall record and a 17-1 ACC record. The Tar Heels won the last seventeen matches of the regular season after losing their opening conference game, and only dropped eight sets during the run and 11 sets overall in conference.
“Without question, this is a very special team. This team has done a lot of great things this year. The highest ranking ever, the highest RPI ever, a conference championship,” said Sagula said.
The conference title is the 12th ACC Championship in UNC volleyball program history, and the sixth ACC title for Sagula.
The 17-1 ACC record is the best record for an ACC champion since the 2009 season, and is the best record for a UNC ACC championship team since the 1989 squad went 6-0 in the ACC.
Carolina’s overall record of 26-2 entering postseason play is the best winning percentage for an ACC champion in conference history.
Seventh-ranked North Carolina will now set its sight on the NCAA tournament, with the bracket announced this Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The first and second rounds will take place next weekend at host school sites.
“Whoever is in front of us, we are going to be ready and prepared for. The exciting thing is that there is a legitimate chance we will be playing here in Chapel Hill,” Sagula said.