COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Head coach Joe Sagula earned his 700th career victory as North Carolina claimed a gutsy 3-2 victory over Maryland on Sunday at the Comcast Pavillion.
Sagula, who is in his 24th season at Carolina, now has a career record of 700-413 in his 33rd year of coaching, including time at the University of Pennsylvania before taking over the helm at UNC.
“Today’s win was an unbelievable comeback for us,” Sagula said. “I thought Maryland played so well. We knew they’d be a tough team and block well. We really had a tough time getting balls past them, and we lost patience at times. I was really proud, though, that we never backed down at the end and showed a lot of mental toughness.”
“Regarding the 700 wins, what comes to mind is thankfulness. I’m thankful to be here with this team. They’re very special people. To be here with them and to celebrate with them is wonderful. I’m also thankful for all the people that have been involved with my coaching over the years,” Sagula said.
Jovana Bjelica finished with season-highs of 20 kills and 18 digs, and Hayley McCorkle posted a career-high 18 kills to lead the Tar Heels, now 26-3 overall and 15-3 in conference play. This is the first time Carolina has reached 26 wins during the regular season since 2002.
The Tar Heels took the first set after holding off a Maryland set point at 24-23 to force extra points and take the frame 29-27. Bjelica posted six kills with six digs, and McCorkle added another four kills for Carolina.
Bjelica and McCorkle each tallied four kills with a block as Carolina took set two, 25-19. Neuenfeldt and Victoria McPherson added two kills and two blocks apiece, and Andrew posted two kills with five digs and a block as UNC held off the Terrapins to take a 2-0 match lead.
Maryland took the extra-points win in set three, 28-26, but the Tar Heels put up a strong battle. With the score tied at 10-10, Maryland posted an 11-3 run to go up 21-13, but the Tar Heels responded with seven straight points to bring it to 21-20, tying the score at 26-26 before the Terps claimed the set. Bjelica had five kills and six digs, and Andrew had four kills with a block for UNC.
It was 4-4 early in set four before the Terps picked up momentum to take the 20-12 lead. UNC brought it within five, 24-19, before Maryland took the frame 25-19 and forced a fifth set. Bjelica tacked on another five kills and Andrew had three kills with seven digs, but Maryland tallied eight team blocks to hold UNC to a .000 attack.
UNC held on through six match-points to take the final frame, 20-18, and claim the match victory. McCorkle was phenomenal in the fifth set particularly, posting six kills, including two to hold off match-points for Maryland, as well as a block. McPherson also added three much-needed blocks, while Jordyn Schnabl added two as well.
Up Next: Carolina closes out the regular season with two final away matches. UNC heads to Wake Forest on Wednesday for a 1 p.m. match and then to current ACC leader Duke for a 3 p.m. Friday match.
The Tar Heels will await their postseason lot, which will be announced during the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 9:30 p.m.