GREENVILLE, N.C. – In its first meeting with North Carolina since 2002, East Carolina conquered its neighbor to the west for the first time since 1978, snapping a 29-match losing streak to the Tar Heels in three sets (25-23, 25-23, 25-16) Sunday afternoon inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The victory was the first for head coach Adler Augustin against a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the second straight for the program as ECU knocked off NC State 3-2 in Raleigh back on Sept. 5, 2019.
East Carolina is the only team to sweep UNC so far this season as the Tar Heels’ previous two losses were in five sets to Virginia Tech and four to then No. 14 Duke.
North Carolina was all over the place offensively, committing 28 attack errors to end up with a .098 hitting percentage. The Pirates fired at a .158 offensive clip, putting down 31 kills on 101 attempts with 15 errors. East Carolina finished on top defensively, outdigging the visitors 51-47 while racking up 11 total blocks.
Aziah Buckner paced the Tar Heels with a match-high 13 kills and also completed a double-double by collecting 13 digs. Senior outside hitter Sydney Kleinman tallied a team-high nine kills while senior libero Camryn Allen recorded a match-best 15 digs. Although the Pirates did not feature a player with a double-double, senior right side Bri Wood came close as she notched eight kills and 11 digs. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker S’mara Riley and redshirt junior middle blocker Sydney Hall combined for 11 blocks.
After a kill by freshman outside hitter Sania Mccoy opened the scoring, three-straight North Carolina attack errors pushed the ECU lead to four. The Pirates kept on pressing, using a block by Kleinman and Riley to establish a 13-5 advantage. UNC scored the next two points, but East Carolina responded with four straight and forced the Tar Heels to use their final timeout. A Pirate service error out of the break sparked an 11-3 run that got North Carolina back within 20-18. However, a quick 3-1 spurt on the strength of a block and two Tar Heel miscues put ECU ahead 23-19. UNC made things interesting, slicing its deficit all the way to 24-23, but the Heels were done in by consecutive service errors that allowed the Pirates to win the opener by a deuce.
It was another hot start for East Carolina in the second set as the Pirates rung up a 9-3 edge on a few early kills and North Carolina attack errors. As they did in the first frame, the Tar Heels mustered a big rally and forged ahead 12-11 via a service ace. The North Carolina lead grew all the way to 18-13 before a service error stopped the run. A pair of Kleinman kills and a Wood tally helped ECU eventually knot the score at 18 and the teams began a chase to the finish line – battling to deadlocks at 20, 21 and 22 points. A big kill by Mccoy gave East Carolina a lead it would not relinquish. With the score in the Pirates’ favor at 24-23, Mccoy and Hall teamed up for a huge stuff block that sent ECU into the intermission with a two sets to none lead.
The Pirates left little doubt in the third. A kill by Kleinman afforded East Carolina an early 9-6 cushion and the sides traded points for a little while until a block by Riley and Kleinman saw ECU claim a 15-11 advantage. The Pirates continued to pull away, building leads of 18-12 and 23-15 before a Tar Heel attack error sealed the sweep.
Up Next: East Carolina resumes American Athletic Conference play March 5-6 with a two-match set at UCF.