NC State’s bid for a shocking upset over the No. 5 Cardinals seemed far too easy through the opening two sets.
Despite matching up against just one top-25 opponent on the year — NC State suffered a thorough 3-1 setback against No. 13 Georgia Tech — and having never beaten a ranked foe on their home floor, the hard-hitting Pack cruised with a near .500 kill percentage and a pair of opening-set victories.
Louisville roared back in the third set, using a five-kill round from Phekran Kong to halve the deficit, and a thunderous ace from Anna DeBeer would later level the fourth set and descend a palpable wave of doubt upon the fans at William Neal Reynolds Arena desperate for the building’s first-ever ranked victory.
The Wolfpack, however, never wavered from their confident and even-keeled approach, breaking from a brief huddle and engineering an immediate, and ultimately decisive, 9-2 response.
NC State would claim the fourth set 25-15, a dominant end to a stunning top-5 victory, the first for the program in more than a decade.
Saturday’s matchup opened with a perfectly even exchange, as neither Louisville nor NC State could build more than a one-score lead through the opening 11 points. But it was a series of defining attack errors, first by Elle Glock and followed by Kong, that granted the Pack a four-point advantage they would ultimately maintain through a comfortable set 1 win — the Cardinals would commit ten errors throughout a sloppy opening frame.
Louisville would push the Pack much closer in the second set, as another Kong kill — the middle blocker trailed only DeBeer in Cardinal kills Sunday with 11 — evened the score at 20. However, the afternoon’s kills leader, Amanda Rice, rose highest for another timely pair of back-to-back kills, giving NC State a two-point lead and, eventually, a clutch second-set victory.
Facing an unfamiliar predicament — the Cardinals have dropped their opening two sets just three times in the last two seasons — Louisville responded assertively, surging out to an 8-4 lead and staving off a late NC State run to pull back the third set.
However, Louisville’s poor hitting resurfaced in a devastating way, committing eight attack errors to NC State’s two and setting up Rice to punctuate the Pack’s upset victory with her sixteenth and final kill.