Rebuilding volleyball squad gauges progress at VCU Invitational
Virginia's second road trip features matchups against Virginia Commonwealth, Appalachian State, Georgetown
The Virginia volleyball team journeys down to Richmond this weekend to take part in the two-day VCU Invitational. The team will battle Virginia Commonwealth Friday, followed by Appalachian State and Georgetown Saturday.
The Cavaliers (3-3, 0-0 ACC) played in the Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup last week, winning two-of-three to even their season record. They dropped a hard-fought first match against a strong Western Kentucky team 1-3 but rebounded to sweep both Lehigh and Delaware. The team showed big improvements as the weekend wore on, and players hope to carry over the momentum to the next set of games.
“I felt the team was all-together more cohesive,” said senior middle Jessica O’Shoney, the team’s captain. “Things just kind of seemed to come together this weekend.”
Virginia’s first chance to build on its success will come against Virginia Commonwealth (6-1, 0-0 A-10), which defeated a strong Middle Tennessee State team Monday. The Rams’ six foreign players present a unique challenge to the Cavaliers. In contrast with American players, who only play for one season out of the year with their college or high school team, foreign players often compete year-round with their club and national teams. As a result, they typically have more in-game experience than Americans of the same age.
After squaring off with the Rams, the Cavaliers will have to immediately get ready for the Hoyas (5-0, 0-0 Big East) and Mountaineers (1-6, 0-0 Southern). Georgetown carries its own momentum into the tournament, having started the season undefeated.
“They’ve had early season success, they’re going to be confident coming in,” Virginia head coach Dennis Hohenshelt said.
The Virginia team places a high value on confidence, as Hohenshelt has made a concerted effort to instill the principle in his players. Regardless of past results, Hohenshelt has asked the team to display the level of intensity he expects every time the team takes the court.
“We obviously have a lot of areas that we need improvement on,” O’Shoney said, “It’s still early in the season, but coming to the gym every day with a ‘go get it’ attitude is going to benefit us the most, not even just this weekend but throughout the rest of the season.”
The Cavaliers and their young corps — nearly a third of the roster consists of freshman — showed the team’s mettle when they came back from a six-point deficit in the final game against Delaware last Saturday.
If the matches so far are any indication, the freshmen are capable of rising to the challenge. Freshman outside hitter Vivian Burcescu is hitting at 23.9 percent, good enough for fourth best on the team, while fellow freshman hitter Natalie Bausback leads the team with five service aces.
“They just need to keep progressing,” Hohenshelt said. “If they can get better at one or two things every week, they’re going to make a pretty nice jump for us.”
With nine matches in a span of 16 days concluding Saturday, the Cavaliers have had plenty of opportunity to break in their young talent, teaching them game preparation at a frenetic pace.
“The coaches do a really good job of getting us the information we need to know about [opponents’] good players, what we need to avoid, the things we need to be really good at,” O’Shoney said. “You just have to wash away the last match regardless of whatever happened, win or lose, and be ready to move forward with a clean slate for the next one.”