BERKELEY, Calif. -- It was a tight contest early, but the Rebels weren't able to maintain momentum as Ole Miss (19-11) fell to North Carolina (25-9) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night by a score of 3-1 (20-25, 20-25, 18-25, 9-25).
Senior middle blocker Miranda Kitts led the Rebels with eight kills on the night, while four players came up with double-digit digs in a defensive battle that saw the Tar Heels come out on top. Morgan Springer posted a match-high 20 digs to lead Ole Miss, while Whitney Craven, Emily Kvitle and Ashley Veach all posted 10 digs on the night.
"You have to congratulate North Carolina" said Ole Miss head coach Joe Getzin. "They played steady and executed a great game plan. We're disappointed in our performance because we have so much more we could have given and we didn't.
"We only have two seniors and are a youthful squad, so you'd like to think we're in a good position for next year. We were in a similar position in 2007 and injuries prevented us from making a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament that season. So now, we go back and begin the arduous off-season and hard work to prepare for the 2011 season."
Ole Miss jumped out of the gates to a quick advantage over the Tar Heels, pulling in front of the designated home team 7-2. But North Carolina put together a rally and using some serendipitous bounces off the net to close the gap to two. The Rebels answered, sending the Tar Heels into a timeout with a 10-5 lead after a couple of miscues by UNC put Ole Miss back on top by five.
The Tar Heels made another run out of the break, cutting into the Rebel lead and trimming the lead to one at 10-9. North Carolina evened the match at 11 on an attack error by the Rebels, and took the first lead of the set on the next point with a kill. Two quick kills, including a Kellie Goss kill on a UNC overpass, put Ole Miss back in the lead 13-12.
The Rebels built the lead back out to three from there, but again the Tar Heels closed the gap and reclaimed the lead at 19-17 and send the Rebels into a timeout.
The Tar Heels moved out to a four-point lead at 21-17, but back-to-back blocks from the Rebels cut the lead to two again at 21-19. The Rebels called a second timeout when the lead grew back to four at 23-19. Ole Miss couldn't rally from there, dropping the first set 25-20.
The two squads traded scores in the early stages of the second set before Ole Miss took its first lead at 5-4 on a North Carolina miscue. Allegra Wells put down a monster block to give the Rebels a two-point lead before Goss followed with a solo block of her own to give Ole Miss the 8-5 lead. Again the Tar Heels put together an answering run to tie things at nine before taking the 10-9 lead and sending the Rebels into a timeout.
A kill from Craven out of the break evened the score and the Rebels used a run highlighted by a Kitts block and a service ace from Springer to take a 14-11 lead. The Rebels saw the lead shrink to one, only to string together another run and move back out in front punctuated by a solo block from Wells that sent North Carolina into a timeout with the Rebels up 21-17.
Ole Miss closed out the set 25-21 to even the match at a set each.
The Rebels opened the third set with a run, including a pair of service aces from Springer, that discombobulated the Tar Heels and put Ole Miss on top 5-1. Trailing by four early, the Tar Heels called a timeout.
North Carolina grabbed the first two points out of the break to cut the lead to two as the Tar Heels cut away at the lead before tying the set at six. But, Ole Miss continued to pound away, moving back in front by three at 9-6 only to have North Carolina again answer with a run and reclaim the lead 11-9. Ole Miss called timeout down 14-10.
The lead swelled to five at 17-12 and the Rebels called a second timeout in the set when the Tar Heels hit a 20-15 advantage. Ole Miss couldn't overcome the deficit as North Carolina claimed the third set 25-28.
The Rebels fell behind 5-0 to open the fourth set and burned a timeout early to try to halt the North Carolina run. Wells put down a monster kill out of the break, putting down the ball as if it were shot out of a bazooka, to get the Rebels on the board. Ole Miss couldn't slow the Tar Heel run, however, and used a second timeout down 11-2.
Ole Miss was never able to get back on track as North Carolina closed out the match with a 25-9 win in the fourth set.
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