Stroman On Sports: If God Is Not A Tar Heel

It was another good weekend for UNC athletics, as the Carolina men’s soccer, women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball teams all posted impressive wins alongside the football team’s shellacking of Illinois. Meanwhile, the national headlines were abuzz with the latest flap between NFL quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers zinged Wilson’s penchant for praising God after wins after his Packers beat Wilson’s Seahawks.

(Not in the national headlines: the ongoing WNBA playoffs. Which raises its own set of questions.)

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School professor and sports analyst Deborah Stroman joined Aaron Keck on WCHL Monday to talk about these issues.

UNC Volleyball Releases Challenging 2015 Slate

North Carolina women’s volleyball has announced its 2015 season schedule – one of the most challenging in recent memory. The Tar Heels will play eight teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2014, including four that made it to the second round.

Head coach Joe Sagula, who is entering his 26th season at UNC, noted the challenges in the schedule for the upcoming season.


UNC Volleyball (UNC Athletics)

“I think our schedule in 2015 is one of the toughest we have ever played,” Coach Sagula says. “I think it will challenge us with the diversity of teams we are going to see, from the Pac 12 to the Big West and Big Ten. We play four Big Ten schools. I think it is really going to give us a good idea of our team since we will be playing so many NCAA-caliber teams. It is a good year for us to play this kind of schedule, with several veterans returning and a talented incoming class. This team will be ready for the challenge.”

Included in the schedule is a trip out west where the Heels will face Southern Cal and 2014 NCAA tournament runners-up BYU. For their ACC-Big Ten Challenge opponents, the Heels will play Minnesota and Wisconsin, who returns the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year in Lauren Carlini.

Featuring in home matchups at Carmichael Arena, Carolina has matches scheduled with 6-time national champion Stanford, who returns four All-Americans, as well as Michigan and Michigan State in the second leg of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Even with the toughest of preseason opponents, the road does not get any easier in ACC play where the Tar Heels finished first at 17-1 last season. The conference had three teams make the 2014 NCAA Tournament and saw a third of its member schools post 20-win records.

“I like that the ACC schedule is returning to 20 conference matches, even though it is difficult for any team to sustain a high level from beginning to end across 20 matches. The conference schedule will really be a challenge, facing teams like Florida State and Miami at home and heading to Georgia Tech and Boston College on longer road trips. We also play our rival Duke twice and also NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh twice,” Coach Sagula says.

Carolina, however, should be equipped for the tough slate. The Heels are returning 13 veterans including All-American honorable mentions Paige Neuenfeldt and Victoria McPherson as well as welcoming in a loaded freshman class.

UNC Volleyball Ends Historic Season

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.- The Tar Heels hung tough with Texas, but ended their historic season with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 20-25, 29-31) loss Saturday night in the NCAA Regional Final.

North Carolina dueled neck-and-neck statistically with the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament, as both teams knocked down 61 kills while UNC registered one more overall dig (85) than Texas (84).

“This was quite a battle; I think that was the best word to describe this,” said Head Coach Joe Sagula.

“From the opening set that we played, to the second set that we were able to come back and win, to the third set, my memory takes me to that really long rally that went back and forth – just great volleyball, both teams fighting it out on both sides.”

Much like all season, the Tar Heels leaned on their seniors for a stellar effort in their final match. Lauren McAdoo paced the offense with 14 kills, while Chaniel Nelson registered 13 kills and two blocks. Classmate Ece Taner registered 17 digs, two service aces, and three assists.

The Tar Heels fell to the Longhorns in set one, despite hitting .206 as a team and Nelson pounding five kills in the frame. Texas turned back 2.0 blocks and held the UNC outside hitters to only two kills, with three errors, limiting Carolina’s out-of-system opportunities.

Texas jumped to a 10-6 lead, and then pushed the advantage to five at 15-10 heading into the media timeout. A 3-0 run from UNC, capped by a block from Leigh Andrew and McPherson, cut the score to 17-15.

However, Texas responded with its own run to go up 21-15 late and then cruise to a 25-21 win.

North Carolina responded in a big way in set two, dropping Texas 25-18 behind four kills from Taylor Treacy and three kills from Victoria McPherson.

The Tar Heels jumped to a 5-0 lead in the frame thanks to a strong run on the serve of Andrew, who had two service aces in the run. Overall, UNC had three aces and only one error from behind the service line in the game.

Carolina maintained the lead throughout the set, but the strong serve of Haley Eckerman helped Texas cut the score to 19-17 late. An error by the Longhorns, followed by a kill from Treacy, helped the Heels respond and take a 22-17 advantage.

A kill from Andrew sealed the set, 25-18, for UNC, and tied the match at 1-1 overall.

In set three, UNC fell behind 3-0 early and struggled to catch up in the set. The Longhorns turned out a stellar offensive performance in the frame, attacking at a .298 clip while limiting Carolina to a .175 hitting percentage.

The pivotal point came with Texas leading 17-16 in set three, after the Tar Heels had mounted a 4-0 run to close the lead. The Longhorns won an incredible rally on a tip from Amy Neal that firmly swung momentum and let Texas finish the third set, 25-20, on another 4-0 run.

North Carolina got off to another shaky start in the fourth set, falling behind 7-4 after Texas notched a service ace. The Tar Heels responded and tied the match at 10-10 after a kill by McAdoo.

Carolina finally took the lead at 22-21 late in the frame, as UNC forced an error from Texas’ Nicole Dalton. Another kill from McAdoo gave the Tar Heels a 23-21 advantage, and then she notched another kill after Texas scored to give UNC set points at 24-22.

The Texas defense then made a statement, notching a block after a Carolina service error to tie the set at 24-24.

The two teams then traded point for point heading into extra volleyball. UNC had three set points, while Texas had five set points and finally converted at 31-29 after a Carolina swing went long.

Taylor Treacy notched 12 kills, five digs and three blocks in the match, while Victoria McPherson had nine kills and six blocks. Paige Neuenfeldt rounded out the offensive effort with eight kills and two blocks on the night.

The Tar Heels placed three players on the All-Regional team, as Taner, Nelson and Treacy were honored for their performance this weekend. Haley Eckerman, a senior outside hitter for the Longhorns, was named Most Outstanding Player of the regional.

North Carolina wraps up its season with a 29-3 overall record, the best overall record in school history. UNC, the ACC champions, advanced the farthest of any of the four ACC teams in the NCAA Tournament in 2014.

“One of our missions this year was to be a team that was nationally relevant and I feel like we’ve accomplished that, and because of that I feel like that we’ve gained a lot from this experience and I know this hurts to lose this so close, and to be this close, but you need to be here, you need to experience it, and I couldn’t ask for anymore from any one of these players,” said Sagula.

UNC Advances to Regional Final With Victory Over Oregon

The UNC volleyball team defeated Oregon 3-1 Friday night at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn.

With the loss, the Ducks drop to 23-10.  The Tar Heels improve to 29-2 and advance to the Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

“I thought we actually got better as the match went on,” UNC Coach Joe Sagula says. “We started slowly, but we never panicked and we made a run to come back.  Because of that, we’ve put ourselves in a great position for our program to make history.  I’m so proud of what these players have done and what our leaders have done to put us in the top eight for the first time ever.”

Chaniel Nelson led the Tar Heel’s offense with 14 kills and turning back six blocks. Paige Neuenfeldt added nine kills and four blocks.

“Oregon’s a great team. They run a fast offense, I mean our strength is in our block and they were leaving us one on one which is something we weren’t used to. So it took us a little while to get used to that but I think after we figured it out we started to do a really good job,” Neuenfeldt says.

Leigh Andrew unc volleyball

The Tar Heels and the Ducks battled it out in set one, as there were 11 tie scores throughout the set and the largest lead for either squad was four. Carolina eventually took the lead and Neuenfeldt scored the set point with a kill to seal the first set victory, 24-23.

The second and third sets were also close scoring as Carolina took the second set, 25-22, and Oregon took the third, 23-25. It was up to the fourth and final set to determine the game winner.

UNC cruised in the fourth set, holding Oregon to a .068 hitting efficiency in the set. Redshirt sophomore Taylor Treacy had three kills and hit .750 in the frame to lead Carolina to a 25-16 win and to secure the win, 3-1.

The Tar Heels will continue to play in Minnesota this weekend as they face Texas  Saturday fighting to earn a spot in the Final Four.

“I thought it was a great match for the Tar Heels and congratulations again to Oregon,” Sagula says. “We’re looking forward to the matchup with a completely different style of team tomorrow, which will be quite a challenge against Texas.”


Tar Heels Meet Ducks in Round of 16

The North Carolina volleyball team will take on the Oregon Ducks in the regional semifinals of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.  The game, which will be played in Minneapolis, marks the second appearance for the Tar Heels in the round of 16 in school history.

The Tar Heels (28-2; 17-1 ACC) kept their focus by defeating Howard (3-0) in round one and USC (3-1) in the second round.  The wins extended North Carolina’s winning streak to 19 games.

The Ducks shared the same success in their first two rounds as they swept Santa Clara (3-0) and defeated LSU (3-1) to reach the regional semifinals.

Oregon (23-9; 11-9 PAC-12) is seeded 10th overall and is ranked 16th in the country according to the AVCA Coaches Poll after finishing 4th in the competitive PAC-12.

Carolina’s defense, which was stellar in the first two rounds in holding opponents to a meager .099 hitting percentage overall, will need another strong performance against Oregon.  The Ducks are led by senior outside hitter Liz Brenner who is coming off a 10 kill 10 dig double-double performance against LSU in the second round.

The two teams have met twice previously with both teams earning one victory.

The Tar Heels and the Ducks will square off Friday at 7p.m. eastern, 6p.m. central, in the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Coverage is available live on ESPN3 and live stats will be provided by GameTracker

Sweet Victory, Bitter Defeat Contrast for Tar Heels

There was plenty to offer on the Tar Heel sports menu over the weekend, and while it was a heartbreaking end of the road for one Carolina squad, it was the continuation of a national championship march for another.

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UNC soccer senior midfielder and Greensboro native Glen Long will remember Saturday night’s game for the rest of his life.

The Tar Heels’ NCAA Tournament fate rested on the strength of his leg and with the game and the season on the line, Long’s penalty kick was gobbled up by UCLA goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr.

In the eighth round, the Bruins clinched the gut-wrenching home victory with another sprawling save by Edwards Jr. And just like that, UNC’s season came to a close with a 15-5-2 final record.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

For four impactful Tar Heels in particular, the loss will be even tougher to take. As seniors, their soccer careers at Carolina have now ended, including captain Boyd Okwuonu, goal scorers Tyler Engel and Andy Craven, and stingy goalkeeper Brendan Moore.

UNC  head coach Carlos Somoano will do well to replace such pivotal performers next season.

Meanwhile, the locker room was a happier place for the Tar Heels back on the east coast.

The UNC volleyball team continued its winning ways with a tough 3-1 win over Southern California inside Carmichael Arena Saturday evening. The Tar Heels have triumphed in a school record 19th straight contest.

Now Sweet Sixteen bound, head coach Joe Sagula says the 2nd round NCAA Tournament match was an outstanding showcase of top-notch volleyball.

“I want to congratulate our North Carolina program, as well as Southern California for a great match – what a great battle,” Coach Sagula says.

Carolina’s coach, now in his 25th season in Chapel Hill, lauds his strong stable of seniors for the perfect 16-0 season mark in the cozy confines of Carmichael Arena.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

“This is why I have these four seniors with us here right now. This is significant for this program, what these four represent to us and what they done and how they’ve seen this program grow. Tonight was a special night for them and for this whole team,” Coach Sagula says.

Senior Lauren McAdoo says she’s proud of her team for overcoming obstacles and reaching for their lofty goals.

“It has been a goal since we got here to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. It shows the heart and fight of this team, through all adversity, to stick to our goal and fought through it together,” McAdoo says.

Senior classmate Ece Taner, who notched 24 digs and a service ace against the Trojans, says she’s enjoying every moment of the historic season, but is also excited for the road that lies ahead.

“We want it as a senior class to be able to play a really tough team. We’re glad that we played a team and are really excited. It’s hard to describe how special this feeling is. We’re ready to play more,” Taner says.

Next up for the surging Tar Heels is a Sweet Sixteen showdown with tenth-seeded Oregon Friday in the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis.

Carolina Sweeps Hampton In NCAA Tourney 1st Round

The UNC volleyball team advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament after a 3-0 victory over Hampton Friday night in Carmichael Arena.

With the win, the Tar Heels improve to 26-2 overall and remain the seven-seeded team in the final regular season poll. The Pirates drop to 21-11 overall.

UNC finished the regular season on a 17-match winning streak and an ACC Championship title.

“We were well prepared I thought, we knew they were going to be pretty good,” UNC Coach Joe Sagula says.  “The team hit .300, which is great to do in an NCAA match. We were able to hold Hampton, who we knew was a very good offensive team, hold them and we were able to block well with 13 blocks.”

UNC senior Lauren McAdoo had three of those blocks and pounded eight kills with a .471 hitting percentage.

“Tonight was definitely one of our best–almost probably–serving games of the whole season. I think almost everyone that served got an ace, at least one, and that’s awesome. That’s doesn’t happen a whole lot in college volleyball so it was pretty impressive,” McAdoo says.

Carolina had a slow start in the match, falling behind 5-2 in the first set. Back-to-back aces from McAdoo brought the teams to a tie at 7-7. Carolina mounted a 25-7 finish in the third set to win the match 3-0.

UNC Volleyball action court

“We had 12 service aces in the match. Nine errors, though, but most of those were in the first set. We basically wanted to show a little more patience at the service line after that first game,” Sagula says. “Then we started serving better.  As we did that, we put the pressure on them. We knew where the ball was going to go.”

UNC dominated the serving and blocking game with 12 aces to to Hampton’s one and 13.0 blocks to only 2.0 for the Pirates.

‘We feel really good about our opportunities here being at home. I think it’s a matter of us putting up what we do well which is to block well, play good defense, serve tough, and hit high percentage. If we do those things, I’ll think we’ll be okay,” Sagula says.

The Tar Heels will compete against Southern California in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday at 6 p.m. in Carmichael Arena.


Tar Heels Aim For National Glory On Turf, Court

Two successful Tar Heel programs hope to take the next steps toward potential national championships this weekend. The UNC men’s soccer team hits the road at UCLA, while the Carolina volleyball squad opens up its NCAA Tournament inside the cozy confines of Carmichael Arena.

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Head coach Carlos Somoano’s men’s soccer team is on the doorstep of a College Cup in its own back yard.

The final four schools will contest the closing matches just down the road from Chapel Hill at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary – the 15-5-1 Tar Heels sure wouldn’t have far to go to celebrate a national championship on Franklin Street.

Rob Lovejoy in action (UNC Athletics)

Rob Lovejoy in action (UNC Athletics)

But before those dreams can be met, UNC must find a way past No. 2 seed UCLA on their home turf, a daunting task to say the least.

Unseeded Carolina, one of only two remaining in the quarterfinals, will rely heavily on senior forward Rob Lovejoy, who was named TopDrawerSoccer’s Player of the Week after scoring both goals in his team’s 2-1 triumph over Clemson last Sunday night.

With Lovejoy’s offensive prowess and UNC keeper Brendan Moore’s proclivity for goal-saving heroics, the Tar Heels will go into Saturday night’s 8 p.m. showdown in Los Angeles with a shot.

Meanwhile, back on the east coast, the Tar Heel women are ready to serve up a storm on the volleyball court.

Fresh off an ACC regular season title, UNC head coach Joe Sagula says he’s proud of his team’s accomplishments in 2014.

“Without question, this team has done a lot of great things this year – highest ranking ever, highest RPI ever, finishing with a conference championship. It’s going to go down as a pretty special thing to beat. I’m excited for them all,” Coach Sagula says.

Chaniel Nelson with the spike (UNC Athletics)

Chaniel Nelson with the spike (UNC Athletics)

Fifth-year senior Chaniel Nelson, who earned her second ACC Player of the Week honors on Monday, says she couldn’t be more excited for the way her final season in Carolina uniform has turned out.

“I am very excited. This makes my fifth year priceless in my eyes. We have more to. That’s what I’m even more excited about. I can’t wait until next week when we host for the first time in so long. This team is really special,” Nelson says.

Senior Ece Taner, from Turkey, says it’s special to know she’s leaving a meaningful mark on the UNC volleyball program.

“I can’t describe to you how proud, happy and excited I am to be able to make an impact on this program and be able to leave something for other teammates. When I come back and watch my teammates compete, I get to see the banner and say, ‘Wow, I did something here.’ That’s everything you could ask for,” Taner says.

But don’t let Taner’s excitement fool you. She’s not satisfied. The Tar Heels want more.

“This was one of our goals. Our mission still continues. We still have hopefully, four more games to go. We’re really excited about that. We’re humble, we’re hungry, and we want more,” Taner says.

A humble and hungry mindset could produce a winning combo for the 26-2 Tar Heels, who open NCAA Tournament play Friday night against 21-10 Hampton.

UNC Volleyball Beats Duke in Five-Set Match

The UNC volleyball team won 3-2 in an exciting five-set match against Duke Wednesday afternoon at Carmichael Arena.

With the win, Carolina improves to 25-2 overall and remains in first place in the ACC standings. Duke drops to 21-7 overall and 13-4 in the conference.

“I thought Duke was phenomenal and the defense was relentless today,” UNC Coach Joe Sagula says. “It was hard to put a ball down. But in the end we found enough good plays to win. We play against each other all the time and I think we both brought the best out of each other today.”

Lauren McAdoo had 14 kills for UNC with two aces, two blocks and seven digs. Senior Ece Taner had a career-high 30 digs while Leigh Andrew led North Carolina with a career-high 18 kills and 15 digs in the match.

“Leigh had 18 kills to lead us and was so sneaky.  Lauren McAdoo, I thought she had a career day. And in terms of her play, her attitude, her mentality, she did, this was her best match,“ Sagula says.

Joe SagulaUNC was able to clinch the first set, 25-19, but had a slower start in the second set and fell short to Duke, 24-26. The back-and-forth match continued as Carolina took the 3rd set, 25-19, and Duke took it right back in the 4th set, 32-30, to tie up the match.

Senior Chaniel Nelson won the match for the Tar Heels in the 5th set, 15-13, knocking a kill off a block from the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels will play Wake Forest Friday at Carmichael at 2 p.m. to round out the regular season.

“Right now, I told them tomorrow that we are coming to practice, because Friday is the day that we play to win a championship,” Sagula says.



UNC Sports Weekend Offered Up Plenty

With fall sports conducting NCAA playoffs and basketball season now in full swing, it was an eventful weekend for Tar Heel athletics. UNC athletes experienced both the thrill of victory and the bitter taste of defeat.

***Listen to the story***

The UNC men’s and women’s basketball teams have hit the road with desirable final destinations. The men are Bahamas bound, while the women are headed to Hawaii.

But the two squads made quick pit stops over the weekend. The men stopped in Charlotte to take on the sharp-shooting Davidson Wildcats Saturday inside Time Warner Cable Arena.

Meeks slamming it down (Todd Melet)

Meeks slamming it down (Todd Melet)

The sixth-ranked Tar Heels used an in-form defense to cool the Wildcats off and emerge with a comfortable 90-72 win to improve to 3-0 on the young season.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says he was pleased with his team’s play, especially on the defensive side of the floor.

“I think we beat a very good basketball team that is a difficult matchup for us. I thought defensively, it was by far our best game of the year,” Coach Williams says.

Sophomore Kennedy Meeks was impressive, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds. But Coach Williams says Meeks is still figuring out how to play in his new slimmed-down frame.

“I think it’s a day-to-day thing. We’ve got to get his mind correct – that he does have a different body and can do certain things. He’s giving me the tired signal, then goes out there, denies the pass 45-feet from the basket and goes down and dunks,” Coach Williams says. “I’ve told him all the time to give me the tired signal when he goes back on offense, not defense. He just doesn’t realize what his body can do right now.”

As for the women, they met up with the Oregon Ducks in Eugene Sunday and after a sluggish start that may have been credited to jetlag; the Tar Heels poured it on in the second half to run away with an emphatic 76-59 triumph and up their record to 4-0.

UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell’s halftime adjustments paid off. With the three-point shots misfiring, the Hall of Fame coach made it simple for her players – just dominate inside. The Tar Heels did just that.

“Offensively, we got the ball inside. I told them at halftime that our advantage is to get the ball inside. They can’t stop us. We’re out there jacking up all these threes. They weren’t going in. Everything we did [in second half] was to get the ball inside,” Coach Hatchell says.

After the game, Coach Hatchell says she received a special compliment from one of the officials.

“We want to just keep getting and better as a team. I really love this team. They’re great kids. In fact, right at the end of the game, one of the referees said to me, ‘It’s such a privilege and honor to call for your team because not only are you skilled, but your ladies are so classy.’ That’s pretty special. The image of how they represent themselves and especially the University of North Carolina, is tremendous,” Coach Hatchell says.

Danielle Butts dives to save the ball (UNC Athletics)

Danielle Butts dives to save the ball (UNC Athletics)

But not all UNC’s teams came out on the right end of the scoreboard over the weekend. There will be no 22nd national championship this year for the Carolina women’s soccer team.

The Tar Heel women were upset 1-0 by South Carolina in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon at Fetzer Field.

UNC head coach Anson Dorrance says despite the setback, he was proud of his team’s accomplishments this season that included a share of the ACC regular season title.

“I’m proud of my senior class. We had really good leadership. If you look at our season overall, we certainly overachieved. We were conference co-champs with Florida State and a No.2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That’s pretty good for a team that was without ten starters from the previous year. But the day obviously goes to South Carolina,” Coach Dorrance says.

For the seniors, the loss was especially tough to take. Senior Satara Murray, though, says she couldn’t have asked for a better four years as a Tar Heel.

It was a disappointing day for the UNC women's soccer team (UNC Athletics)

It was a disappointing day for the UNC women’s soccer team (UNC Athletics)

“All in all, I had a fantastic year. I had fun. It was an amazing four years. I’m excited to see what the future has in store, but I love playing with this team every minute, every game. These girls fought for one another, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. Credit goes to my team for making this an unforgettable and memorable four years,” Murray says.

In other action, the UNC men had better luck on the soccer pitch, defeating tenth-seeded Charlotte 2-1 in rainy conditions Sunday to survive and advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels will face the winner of the Clemson-Coastal Carolina match to be played Monday.

And last but certainly not least, the Carolina volleyball team continues to serve up a storm. This time, the No. 7 Tar Heels bagged a 3-1 win over the Louisville Cardinals Sunday afternoon in Cardinal Arena.

UNC head coach Joe Sagula’s 24-2 team will wrap up the regular season this week with a pair of home matches – a rivalry encounter against No. 21 Duke and an ACC matchup with Wake Forest.