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Nothing to Lose: Wolfpack already defied odds in first season under Keatts

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When Kevin Keatts was hired last March, NC State knew they’d be without Dennis Smith Jr and senior Beejay Anya.

They found out later that Terry Henderson, for some reason, was denied his medical hardship waiver and he too wouldn’t be around. Then Keatts got the news that Maverick Rowan was going to Europe and Ted Kapita was going to try his hand in the draft.

That left Kevin Keatts with Markell Johnson, Torin Dorn, Malik Abu, Omer Yurtseven, Lennard Freeman, Shawn Kirk and Darius Hicks. Let’s put it this way, NC State was losing 62% of their scoring from a team that finished tied with Pitt for 13th in the conference with a 4-12 record. And here’s the kicker; Gottfried’s lone incoming recruit decommitted after his firing.

The cupboard wasn’t completely bare when Kevin Keatts got here, but it sure was sparse. Not only did he barely have enough guys to field a team, but he was also adamant about implementing a new system right away.

That system would rely heavily on defensive pressure and 3 point shooting. The only problem was that his returners had shot a pretty miserable 30% from 3pt range last season and only Torin Dorn and Markell Johnson were known as capable defenders.

Had anyone told you, at that point, that NC State would finish tied for 3rd in the ACC with an 11-7 conference record and 21 wins overall, you’d have literally called them delusional and swore they knew nothing about college basketball.

Thinking back to where we were less than one year ago makes this run by the Wolfpack even that much more amazing. Keatts did go out and add some key pieces in grad-transfers Al Freeman and Sam Hunt. He flipped 2 4-star recruits and got them committed to the Pack at the last minute (Beverly and Batts). Seeing as how late to the game he was in getting involved, it’s incredible the type of talent he was able to add. But still, no one in their right mind believed that was enough to compete in the ACC.

Keatts, however, did believe it.

In one season he transformed the culture around the program. He turned Markell Johnson into the ACC’s best assist man and helped Omer Yurtseven realize his potential as a go-to scorer. He took Dorn from a tweener who struggled to find his role last season, into one of the league’s biggest mismatches, He stuck by his decision to allow Al Freeman to have an always-on green light even when he couldn’t find his confidence and he kept on plugging in Sam Hunt despite his early season shooting woes.

The expectation you have for this team, they weren’t here before Keatts arrived, he created them. He created them with wins over #2 Arizona, #2 Duke, #10 UNC, #18 Clemson, and #25 FSU. This team expects to win and in turn, so now does the fanbase.

But, none of those wins means this team isn’t flawed. The losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College showed that. They are running a system suited for a team that goes ten deep. A system that wants to be able to switch nearly every screen and have multiple guys that can guard multiple positions. A system that relies on speed and athleticism. This team isn’t really a true fit for this system, yet they are succeeding.

You always want more, of course you do, but 11 wins in the ACC, 21 overall, 5 wins over top 25 teams and a near lock for the NCAA Tournament, when you’re honest with yourself, is way more than you were ever expecting. That is not saying that this team should be content. They shouldn’t. They should wear the badge of ‘world-beaters’ from here on out because while the wins have come in bundles, respect has not followed.

The Pack didn’t grace the Top-25 once this season. Not one player from this team made 1st or 2nd team all-ACC and Kevin Keatts didn’t finish in the top two for ACC Coach of the Year. No one believed in them at the beginning, and despite their success, no one wants to believe in them now. But that’s just fine with the Wolfpack because March is where underdogs get their final say.

So as we move into the final days of the season, realize that this team is playing with house money. Most people thought this group would be fighting to stay out of the basement of the ACC. Now they are set to enter the field of 64 with absolutely, positively nothing to lose, and that makes them a very dangerous opponent.

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NC State Volleyball Concludes Non-Conference Slate with Loss to Georgia

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ATLANTA – Despite receiving a match-high 16 kills from senior outside hitter Teni Sopitan, the NC State volleyball team fell in straight sets against Georgia, 3-0 (26-24, 25-22, 25-21), in the ACC-SEC Challenge Saturday afternoon inside O’Keefe Gym to wrap-up its non-conference slate.

The Bulldogs own a 9-2 record on the year and are receiving 22 votes in this week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Poll, just three spots shy of the top 25 at No. 28. NC State heads into ACC play with a 6-4 overall record.

Georgia had a slight 47-46 edge in kills for the match, but the Wolfpack committed 18 attacking errors to just nine for the Bulldogs as each set was determined by less than five points. NC State had a tough time slowing down the powerful Georgia offense, as reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week T’ara Ceasar put down 15 kills and the Bulldogs recorded a .328 team attacking percentage.

Quoting Hampton-Keith
Overall thoughts…
“The frustrating part about today was that we didn’t necessarily play poorly, we just didn’t execute one phase of the game well enough to win,” said head coach Linda Hampton-Keith. “We acknowledged that our passing wasn’t at a level that allowed us to get our offense rolling the way we wanted to. We played the game well in transition, but we didn’t win the serve / serve receive battle. We’ll get back to work and prepare for conference this week.

“Our highest priority and of the utmost importance, we continue to deal with how we plan to get our student-athletes and staff back to Raleigh safely and how to help our North Carolina community in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. That takes precedence over anything that took place on the court this weekend.”

Match Rewind
– The first set was tightly contested featuring 12 ties and five lead changes before Georgia earned the two-point win down the stretch.
– After the Bulldogs pulled ahead 22-21, the Wolfpack countered with back-to-back points to take a 23-22 following a service ace from Grace Irvin.
– With the score knotted at 24-24, a pair of costly attacking errors ensued for NC State as Georgia won the opening set, 26-24.
– NC State started strong in the second set, taking a 12-8 lead after consecutive kills from Kylie Pickrell to force a timeout by the Bulldogs.
– The Wolfpack later extended the advantage to 15-10 before a furious comeback by the Bulldogs to grab a 17-15 advantage.
– NCSU battled to narrow the deficit to 23-22 thanks to a kill from Sopitan, but UGA closed out the set with a kill and a block to go up 2-0 in the match.
– The third set was neck-and-neck, as neither team led by more than two points until Georgia took a 21-18 lead after a 3-1 run.
– The Wolfpack had a tough time slowing down the Georgia attack, as the Bulldogs won the frame, 25-21, and the match 3-0.

Top Performers
– In addition to Sopitan’s 16 kills, Lauryn Terry put down nine kills and Melissa Evans contributed eight.
– Pickrell collected 37 assists in addition to six digs, five kills and two blocks.
– Defensively, senior libero Makenzie Kuchmaner logged 15 digs and freshman Jade Parchment tallied eight.

Up Next
NC State will open ACC play in its next action, as the Wolfpack will host Louisville on Sept. 21. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. inside Reynolds Coliseum.

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NC State Volleyball Rallies for Five-Set Win Against Arkansas

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ATLANTA – Fueled by a season-high 12 team blocks, the NC State volleyball team rallied to earn a five-set (3-2: 19-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 15-13) victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the ACC-SEC Challenge Friday afternoon inside O’Keefe Gym. After trailing 2-1 in the match, the Wolfpack battled to force a fifth set and emerged victorious in the decisive frame.

NC State earns its third five-set win of the season, while Arkansas was denied its first five-set victory of the year. The Wolfpack’s win also snapped the Razorbacks three-match win streak.

Third-year Wolfpack head coach Linda Hampton-Keith led her team to victory in a matchup that pitted her against her former head coach Jason Watson, whom she served as an assistant coach for five seasons at Arizona State prior to taking over the program at NC State.

The Pack moves to 6-3 on the year, while the Razorbacks fall to 6-3.

Worth Noting

– Friday’s matchup was the third meeting between the programs, as NC State now leads the all-time series 2-1.

– The Wolfpack’s 12 blocks in the contest are the most this season, eclipsing the previous high of nine accomplished three times.

– NC State is undefeated on the year at 5-0 when recording a higher attacking percentage than its opponent (.231-.181).

Quoting Hampton-Keith

Overall thoughts…

“I’m really proud of our team and how we played today,” said Hampton-Keith. “We knew we would have to play clean and so I’m proud of how we were able to ride the wave of a five-set match, stay focused and execute down the stretch. We worked all week on certain things to prepare for this weekend, so it’s a joy as a coach when you see the work your staff has put in come to fruition on the court.”

On playing against former head coach Jason Watson…

“We of course talked before the match and said this was awesome, but also kind of sucked because we knew there would be an outcome one of us didn’t like. I think when you have the tremendous amount of respect as we do for each other it can bring some mixed emotions. It was a fun and exciting match to be a part of.”

Match Rewind

– Arkansas opened the match strong, as the Razorbacks raced out to a 5-0 lead in the first set.

– NC State battled to narrow the deficit to 11-9 after a kill from Keira Moore and rallied again to cut the Arkansas lead to 21-18 thanks to a service ace from Makenzie Kuchmaner to force a timeout.

– Unfortunately, the Razorbacks countered to win four of the next five rallies to take a 1-0 lead in the match with the 25-19 first-set victory.

– NC State evened the match at one set apiece with a 25-22 win in the second set after tallying a .455 team attacking percentage with 16 kills in the frame.

– The Pack jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the set after a kill from Teni Sopitan to force an Arkansas timeout.

– The Razorbacks rallied to narrow the NC State lead to 22-20, but the Wolfpack held on for the set win to even the match.

– There were no lead changes or ties in the first two sets, as both teams led from start to finish.

– Arkansas put together a strong third set to take a 2-1 lead in the match, as the Razorbacks grabbed control of the frame with a 9-1 run en route to the 25-17 set win.

– In the fourth set, NC State raced out to a 6-1 lead following a solo block from Moore and never looked back.

– The Wolfpack struck first in the fifth set and did not relinquish the lead although there were five ties.

– After Arkansas knotted the set at 10-10, Sopitan delivered a kill for the Wolfpack to put the squad ahead by one and after a kill by the Razorbacks and then a service error, another kill from Sopitan followed to push the advantage to 13-11.

– Melissa Evans gave the Wolfpack match point with a kill from the pin and an attacking error by Arkansas gave NC State the 15-13 fifth-set win and 3-2 victory in the match.

Top Performers

– Sopitan led all players in the match with 17 kills and also recorded a .286 attacking percentage.

– Evans tallied 13 kills, while Moore put down 11 to go along with a .444 attacking percentage.

– Lauryn Terry logged nine kills on 14 swings and did not commit an error to chart a .643 attacking percentage.

– At setter, Kylie Pickrell handed out a match-high 52 assists and collected nine digs to finish one shy of a double-double.

– Defensively, Kuchmaner led the way with 20 digs and defensive specialist Grace Irvin pitched in with eight.

– Terry also registered seven blocks to lead all players in the contest.

Up Next

NC State returns to action Saturday afternoon when the Wolfpack takes on Georgia, a team receiving votes for the top-25 polls. First serve is slated for 1 p.m. inside O’Keefe Gym.

 

 

 

 

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NC State Volleyball Cruises Past Campbell in Straight Sets, 3-0

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RALEIGH, N.C. – The NC State volleyball team put together a dominant performance Sunday afternoon inside Reynolds Coliseum to defeat the Campbell Camels in straight sets, 3-0 (25-19, 25-11, 25-20).

The Wolfpack compiled a team attacking percentage of .269 and limited Campbell to a .038 clip, which is the lowest the Pack has held an opponent to this season. Senior Makenzie Kuchmaner charted a match-high 20 digs, which is the third-highest total by any ACC player in a three-set match this season.

NC State has won the last five meetings against Campbell and moves to 5-3 on the year, while the Camels fall to 2-8.

Quoting Hampton-Keith

Overall thoughts…

“We’re really pleased with our ability to bounce back after a match like we had on Friday night that was so close,” said head coach Linda Hampton-Keith. “We came to practice yesterday and refocused to take care of the match today.

“I like the way that we executed and were able to play clean volleyball.”

Match Rewind

– NC State opened the match strong, jumping out to a 7-3 lead in the first set before Campbell battled back to knot the set at eight.

– After the Camels pulled ahead 18-17, the Wolfpack responded with six unanswered points to take a 23-18 lead.

– Senior Teni Sopitan tallied three kills during the stretch and then gave the Pack set point before an attacking error by Campbell gave NC State the 25-19 set win.

– The Wolfpack was absolutely dominant in the second set en route to a 25-11 set win, recording a .407 team attacking percentage with 13 kills and only two errors on 27 attempts.

– NC State raced out to a 9-4 lead to force a Campbell timeout following a kill from Lauryn Terry and a bad set.

– After a kill from Erin Chatman to give the Pack a 15-11 lead, the senior from Columbus, Ohio, made a huge impact from the service line as she served 10 consecutive points and NC State closed out the set on an 11-0 run.

– In the third set, the Wolfpack raced out to an 8-3 advantage after four consecutive points.

– After the Camels took a 14-12 lead, NC State countered with an 8-0 run to pull ahead, 20-14.

– Chatman’s service ace gave the Pack match point before Sopitan capped the match with a kill from the outside to give NC State the third-set win, 25-20, to take the match, 3-0.

Top Performers

– Melissa Evans led all players in the contest with 12 kills and also collected seven digs.

– Sopitan also reached double-digit kills with 10, while Chatman pitched in with eight.

– Keira Moore put down six kills on 10 swings to record a .600 attacking percentage.

– At setter, Kylie Pickrell dished out a match-high 32 assists and tallied seven digs.

– Defensively, Kuchmaner led all players with 20 digs and Chatman contributed 10.

Up Next

NC State returns to action next weekend when it wraps up the non-conference portion of its schedule at the ACC-SEC Challenge in Atlanta, Ga. The Wolfpack will play Arkansas and Georgia in the event hosted by Georgia Tech inside O’Keefe Gym.

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NC State Volleyball Splits a Pair of Matches at Home Invitational

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RALEIGH, N.C. – The NC State volleyball team opened play in the Wolfpack-Camels Invitational with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-12, 25-22) sweep against Wright State, highlighted by a season-high .377 team attacking percentage but came up short in its second match of the day suffering a five-set (25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 25-21, 9-15) loss to Utah Valley Friday evening inside Reynolds Coliseum.

Hosted in conjunction with Campbell, the Wolfpack rolled past the Wright State Raiders with its best offensive performance of the season before running into a pesky Utah Valley team that would not be denied in the nightcap. NCSU’s .377 team attacking percentage is the eighth-highest mark in the ACC this season.

Sophomore Melissa Evans tallied a match-high 18 kills versus the Raiders, which is the most by any player in the ACC in a three-set match this season. The Lone Tree, Colo., native also logged a career-best .571 attacking percentage with only two errors on 28 attempts.

NC State moves to 4-3 on the year, while Wright State is 5-2 and Utah Valley is 8-3.

Quoting Hampton-Keith

Overall thoughts…

“I thought Utah Valley was a really great defensive team,” said third-year head coach Linda Hampton-Keith. “They challenged us and continued to get better as the match went on. They went five sets last night against Campbell and five sets earlier today against Appalachian State.

“They were a different kind of team that we haven’t seen yet, and we really struggled to make the adjustments that we needed to.”

Match Rewind Versus Wright State

– NC State started strong against the Raiders, as the Wolfpack jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first set after a kill from Jade Parchment to force a Wright State timeout.

– After the Raiders rallied to narrow the NCSU advantage to 17-15, the Pack responded with three unanswered points en route to the 25-20 win in the opening set.

– The second set was close until senior libero Makenzie Kuchmaner took over, as she served 13 consecutive rallies and NC State scored 12 consecutive points to pull away at 23-10 and went on to win the frame, 25-12.

– The Wolfpack tallied 21 kills in the second set, which is the most in any set this season, and only committed one attacking error on 30 attempts to log a .667 team attacking percentage.

– In the third set, Kuchmaner struck again as she served seven consecutive rallies and NC State erased a 3-0 deficit to take a 7-3 advantage.

– After the score was tied at 19-19, Teni Sopitan tallied a kill from the outside and followed with a block assist along with Keira Moore to give the Pack a two-point lead and NCSU closed out the set with a 25-22 win to sweep the match.

Top Performers

– Evans’ 18 kills led all players and she also contributed six digs and two blocks.

– Parchment also turned in a strong performance, as she put down 13 kills in addition to a .344 attacking percentage with only two miscues on 32 swings.

– Sopitan and Lauryn Terry each tallied seven kills.

– Senior setter Kylie Pickrell handed out 37 assists and recorded 10 digs to log her second consecutive double-double.

– Kuchmaner enjoyed one of her best outings in a Wolfpack uniform, as she collected 19 digs, nine assists and three service aces.

Match Rewind versus Utah Valley

– Trailing 17-13 in the first set, NC State went on a 7-0 run to take a 20-17 lead thanks to stellar serving from Kristen Chatman, which included a pair of aces.

– Consecutive kills from Sopitan gave the squad set point and an attacking error by UVU put NC State ahead 1-0 in the match.

– Utah Valley edged NC State down the stretch in the second to even the match at one apiece, as the Wolverines won seven of the final nine points.

– The Wolfpack fell behind 21-14 in the third set but fought back in the frame to even the frame at 23-23 after an 8-1 run.

– Unfortunately, consecutive kills from UVU’s Kristen Allred followed to close out the set.

– NC State was strong in the fourth set, recording its best team attacking percentage of the match in the frame with a .316 clip with only four errors.

– Three consecutive kills from Evans gave the Pack momentum down the stretch and NC State won it, 25-21.

– NCSU jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the decisive fifth set, but five unanswered points put Utah Valley ahead, 6-3, and NC State could not make up the difference as UVU held off any would-be rallies.

Top Performers

– Sopitan headlined the Wolfpack offense in the second match of the day with 19 kills.

– Evans also notched 18 kills in her second match of the day and logged 12 digs to chart her third career double-double performance.

– Pickrell led all players in the contest with 53 assists.

– Defensively, Kuchmaner tallied a match-high 22 digs, while Grace Irvin had 12.

Up Next

NC State will return to action Sunday afternoon when the squad welcomes the Campbell Camels to Reynolds Coliseum. First serve is slated for 2 p.m.

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