Miami plays resilient match, drops game to No. 12 North Carolina 3-1

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The Hurricanes were defeated 3-1 by the No. 12-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday, ending the team’s three-game win streak.

Despite matching up against a top-15 team, junior outside hitter Olga Strantzali continued her run of statistical brilliance. She followed up her career-high 30 kill game from the previous week with 25 on Friday, averaging out to an impressive 6.25 kills per set.

“The team’s getting better so I’m getting better,” Strantzali said after the game. “The other teams are starting to have to focus on other players on our team, which makes my job a lot easier.”

Strantzali’s dominance was on display from the start, as she finished with eight kills on 22 attacks in the first set alone. She performed well in spite of her injuries. Strantzali has been playing through a right hand injury and suffered a left arm injury early in the first set.

“I broke my finger right before the FSU game, and I got a cramp early in this game,” she said. “I’m an athlete so it’s going to happen. I just have to deal with that.”

Strantzali and the Hurricanes (11-14, 5-8 ACC) could not overcome the Tar Heels (20-3, 12-1 ACC) early, and they dropped the first two sets 25-18 and 25-16. It was not until the third set that the team played some of its best volleyball of the year, winning the set 25-23.

“What we were working on for weeks was being tough when it counts,” sophomore middle blocker Lucia Pampana said. “They were a good team, but we did a very good job.”

Pampana finished the set with five kills, and her energy helped galvanize the team. An emphatic kill by sophomore outside hitter Kolby Bird ended the set, giving Miami its first set win against a top-25 team this year (previously 0-9).

“The numbers show that we’re getting better and we made [UNC] play better,” Head Coach José Gándara said. “We know we are improving and for sure winning a set against a really good team is going to give us a lot of confidence.”

Miami jumped to an early lead in the fourth set, anchored by six Strantzali kills in the first 12 points of the match. The Hurricanes built a 22-15 lead, and it seemed that they were going to force a fifth set and possibly pull off the upset. UNC showed why it is ranked No. 12 in the nation, closing the match on an 11-2 run and spoiling the first of two Homecoming games for UM.

“We could have been better especially in that moment and in that situation,” Pampana said. “But now we just have to focus on Sunday and we are very excited.”

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