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MALIBU, Calif.- Trailing two sets to one, North Carolina fought back to defeat No. 10 California, 3-2 (25-17, 16-25, 23-25, 25-17, 15-9) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament from Firestone Fieldhouse at Pepperdine University. Junior Emily McGee posted 23 kills and 15 digs, notching the 16th double-double of her last 18 matches, and senior Erica Behm tallied 51 assists to lead the Tar Heel attack. Senior Kaylie Gibson piloted the defense with 20 digs.
It was UNC that again jumped out to an early lead in set four (7-2), capped by a service ace from Ece Taner. Cal fought back to deadlock the score (9-9), but the Tar Heels took the next four points to go back ahead, 13-9, following a block by Nelson and Van Noy. Cal went on its own 3-0 spurt out of a timeout to pare the Carolina advantage to one (13-12). UNC later began to pull away, going up by four (20-16) on a kill by McGee, forcing the Bears to call timeout. Carolina finished off set four on a 5-1 run out of the break, capturing set point on a block by Nelson and Van Noy.
Carolina carried the momentum into the deciding fifth set, grabbing an early five-point lead (8-3) as the teams swapped sides. Cal fought back to within two (9-7) after a kill by Tarah Murrey, but Carolina took four of the last six points, with Van Noy and Behm combining on a block for match point (15-9).
Carolina out-blocked the Bears, 17-11, to stay perfect in five-set matches in 2011. UNC is now 4-0 in five-setters, dating back to a 3-2 victory against then No. 21 Miami Oct. 9, at Carmichael Arena.
The Tar Heels found redemption in the victory over Cal, after being swept by the Bears in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - ACC Defensive Player of the Year Ali McCurdy broke Duke's single-season digs record, but host Tennessee pulled out a 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-19, 25-16) win over the Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament in Thompson-Boling Arena.
McCurdy, a sophomore, finished the season with an ACC-leading 653 digs, besting the record of 644 held by Duke's all-time digs leader Jenny Shull since 2007. McCurdy, who is the fastest player in Duke history to reach 1,000 digs, averaged 5.73 digs per set for the year which ranks second at Duke and fourth on the ACC's single-season list.
Despite McCurdy's record-breaking performance, the 14th-seeded Volunteers (28-3) used 19 kills from Kelsey Robinson and 12 team blocks to pull out their 14th consecutive home-court victory. The loss marked only the second time during Duke's seven-year tournament streak that the Blue Devils (21-9) have been knocked out in the first round. Duke's last first-round loss also came against Tennessee in Knoxville during the 2009 tournament.
Tennessee, ranked No. 15 in the country, moves on to the second round where it will face Ohio State on Friday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Duke wraps up the year with a 21-9 overall record for its school-record eighth consecutive 20-win season. Catanach, who totaled 42 assists in her final match, finishes her Duke career ranked second in the school record books and ninth in ACC history with 5,363 career assists. Senior Sophia Dunworth also cracked Duke's top 10 and wrapped up her career with the seventh-most kills in school history.