Cavs claim first conference win against Wake Forest
After ceding 10th straight ACC loss Friday, Virginia rebounds next night, downs Demon Deacons 3-1
The Virginia volleyball team has finally found its first ACC win this season. After falling to Duke Friday, the Cavaliers bounced back the following evening to defeat Wake Forest and notch their first conference victory of the season.
“I’m happy for the girls,” coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “They deserved to win. They’ve been working hard, and to see it finally start to turn over for them, I’m excited for them.”
The Cavaliers (7-15, 1-10 ACC) beat James Madison last Tuesday to break an eight-match losing streak. The team showed steady signs of improvement even during the skid, coming within one set of upsetting ACC powerhouse North Carolina Oct. 12. Matches against Duke and Wake Forest, two ACC basement-dwellers, gave Virginia the opportunity to turn the corner fully.
Duke (12-11, 3-8 ACC) took the first set against Virginia, but the Cavaliers returned to win the second, 26-24. The Cavaliers dropped a heartbreaking third set, however, falling 27-25 after leading 25-24. Virginia collapsed for a 25-15 loss in the fourth set.
Many of the team’s season-long problems resurfaced during the 3-1 loss to Duke. After a strong start, Virginia’s level of play dropped significantly, and the team squandered close games while posting 25 attacking errors and 11 serve errors.
“It was a tough loss to Duke, but we definitely learned that we can play really well for a couple games,” junior libero Emily Rottman said. “We really have to push through, and if we lose a set we have to come back and push even harder.”
Virginia returned to action the next day against the Demon Deacons (8-15, 2-9 ACC). The teams traded streaks during the first two sets, but the Cavaliers ultimately won both, 25-21 and 27-25. Wake Forest dominated the third set, going up 11-4 early and never trailing during a 25-17 drumming. The teams exchanged points one-for-one in the fourth until Virginia started to pull ahead with a 23-19 lead. The Deacons scared the Memorial Gym crowd by rattling off four straight points for a 23-23 tie, but the Cavaliers claimed the last two points to win the match 3-1.
Virginia’s underclassmen starred against Wake Forest, as freshmen outside hitters Natalie Bausback and Kayla Sears each posted excellent matches. Bausback had 22 kills and only 2 errors with a .417 hitting percentage, and Sears tallied 19 kills and 2 attack errors with a .515 hitting percentage. Bausback also added a solo block and six block assists, becoming one of four Virginia players with at least six block assists.
By downing Wake Forest, Virginia overcame one of its major weaknesses — successfully closing out a match. Even during its win last Tuesday, the Cavaliers needed five sets to top James Madison despite taking an early 2-0 lead. After dropping a disappointing third set to Wake Forest, Virginia never trailed in the fourth.
“The lesson they have to take from [the Wake Forest match] is, when you’re playing well, how you keep doing that,” Hohenshelt said. “It’s like the team is in a wave pool all the time: There’s highs and there’s lows in the wave. They have to learn how to get to the top of the wave and stay at that high level … that’s when I talked about putting your foot on the accelerator; you have to go.”
Next weekend the team travels down to the Sunshine State to battle No. 12 Florida State and No. 24 Miami. The Seminoles and Hurricanes are the ACC’s only nationally ranked teams, and each has just one conference loss this year. Virginia lost to both teams on consecutive nights early this season. The Cavaliers now hope to take momentum from their first conference win down south as they seek an upset or two.
“It’s awesome to have a win,” Bausback said. “We’ve been waiting for an ACC win for a while. But we need to go into practice and work hard and put up a fight against these next two teams. I think if we play hard, we could have a shot. But we have to work hard.”