Frustrated volleyball team hosts Tar Heels, Wolfpack
Once woeful N.C. State makes strides Virginia hopes to follow
The Virginia volleyball team faces North Carolina and N.C. State at home this weekend as it searches for an elusive ACC win. The struggling Cavaliers (5-12, 0-7 ACC) have suffered a six-match losing streak under first-year head coach Dennis Hohenshelt.
The Cavaliers last played at Clemson and Georgia Tech on the road and fell well short of victory in both matches. Virginia lost 3-0 against the Tigers Friday night and sustained another 3-0 defeat against the Yellow Jackets the next day. Both matches featured a tightly contested first set, with the Cavaliers at one point leading 23-22 against Clemson and 27-26 against Georgia Tech.
But Virginia crumbled soon after. Clemson ultimately rallied to take the first set 26-24 and Georgia Tech did likewise, 29-27. The second sets featured a big drop-off: Virginia lost them by a combined 25 points. Both opponents closed with third-set wins to complete the sweep.
The Clemson and Georgia Tech matches served as prime examples of the Cavaliers’ fatal flaws. In particular, failing to capitalize on early leads has haunted Virginia all season.
“Finishing our games [is our biggest problem], because we always come out really strong and wanting to win,” sophomore setter Tori Janowski said. “Then we get to the end and it’s 20-20, and we just don’t finish. Then the momentum changes for the rest of the match.”
The Cavaliers have only managed to win two sets during their losing streak, but every match has been hard-fought. Effort has never been an issue, which testifies to the team’s belief in Hohenshelt. But the Cavaliers have been hurt time and time again by hitting errors and other mental mistakes. Virginia has been hitting on average almost eight percent lower than its opponents and has totaled 82 attacking errors this season.
The next chance to get back in the wins column comes this weekend against the Tar Heels (13-4, 4-3 ACC) and the Wolfpack (15-3, 5-2 ACC), two teams that present a formidable challenge even with Virginia’s home-court advantage.
The Tar Heels won five matches in a row before running into the roadblock of Florida State and Miami last week. North Carolina features a bevy of experienced players and is well on its way to making the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year.
The Wolfpack is looking to make the tournament for the second time in school history. After spending years as the conference’s doormat, enduring 15 consecutive losing seasons, N,C. State and head coach Bryan Bunn roared to a 20-13 record last year. This season the team is already closing in on last year’s win total and building a new tradition of success.
“[N.C. State] just believes they’re going to win right now,” Hohenshelt said. “They’ve been down in the dumps, but now they’ve got a win streak, so they’re going to play people tough and dig balls and try to drive you crazy.”
Though losing streaks can take a toll on players’ mental approach, especially with a squad as young as Virginia’s, Hohenshelt said a little positive momentum could go a long way for his players’ faith in themselves.
“When we do things well, we do a lot of things well, and it sort of steamrolls,” Hohenshelt said. “We just have to keep it going, and that’s the biggest issue with this group: believing that if they keep it going they’ll win some matches.”