North Carolina – currently ranked No. 26 in PrepVolleyball.com’s Top 50 after tough losses to USC, BYU, Wisconsin and Minnesota – showed why it was No. 8 in our Preseason Rankings with the type of performance it put forth Thursday in upsetting No. 3 Stanford in straight sets, 25-17, 27-25, 25-22.
Yes, Jordan Burgess saw as much playing time as I did, sitting and watching from the sidelines as the Cardinal turned to a new-looking lineup. It’s natural to wonder how the outcome would’ve looked with Burgess in the lineup.
Still, Stanford was ahead 24-21 in the second game and a point away from evening the match at a set apiece. Burgess or not, there’s no excuse for letting a lead like that slip away. And we’ll never know what the match would’ve looked like had Stanford hung on, but one possibility was Stanford settling down and going on from there.
Before getting to some of the match, the Burgess situation is a perfect illustration of why putting together rankings can be difficult. What to do with Stanford now?
Being swept at Penn State, healthy or not, is a quality loss for anybody. But what about the Cardinal losing at North Carolina without Burgess? Is it a quality loss or not?
Switching it around, is it a quality victory or not for North Carolina?
These are all things to consider when putting together the Top 50.
1. The defense doesn’t rest. Say what you want about Burgess not playing, the Tar Heels were a much different looking team than during the past two weekends. One of the biggest area of improvements came on defensively, as North Carolina out-dug Stanford 47-37. During the opening weekend, North Carolina’s offensive issues were exacerbated by its defensive deficiencies.
The Tar Heels opened the season with Heather Gearhart at libero and also tried freshman Casey Jacobs. However, Thursday it was a third San Diego product in junior Tatina Durr that was wearing the libero jersey. Durr and Jacobs played for Wave during their 18s year of club, while Gearhart suited up for Coast.
It seems for now Durr might have won the local competition for the spot. She finished with a team-high 16 digs and was equally solid in serve receive. Overall though, it was just a different energy and scrappiness from North Carolina and it clearly outplayed Stanford in that department. If you want to bring up Burgess, this is where Stanford missed her more than on offense.
Stanford’s passing was off too and that contributed to some of the team’s 21 hitting errors. Another factor was the Tar Heels’ activeness at the net, with middles Victoria McPherson and Paige Neuenfeldt combining for seven assists blocks and two solos. Opposites Taylor Treacy and Taylor Fricano also had five combined block assists.