Skidding Cavs drop two tight tests at home
First-year coach remains winless in conference play, loses matches to North Carolina, N.C. State
After dropping two tough matches this weekend against North Carolina and N.C. State, the Virginia volleyball team still seeks its first conference victory.
Entering the weekend, the Cavaliers (5-14, 0-9 ACC) hoped to snap a six-match losing streak by defeating the Tar Heels (15-4, 6-3 ACC). Virginia’s 25-18 loss in the first set seemed to dash any thoughts of halting the skid, but the team rebounded to win the second set 25-21 — the first time Virginia has broken 20 points in a second set since beating Liberty Sept. 15.
“I think we definitely had a lot of motivation to get that second set, because that’s been a problem for us this season, getting that second set and pushing through,” freshman hitter Vivian Burcescu said. “We knew that we didn’t want to have that feeling again that we were so close and just let it slip away.”
After losing a tight third set 26-24, the Cavaliers dominated the next round 25-17 to force a deciding fifth set. The Cavaliers gave up the first four points but charged back with four points of their own.
The two teams traded advantages to 10-10, but Virginia caught bad luck as two Tar Heel shots landed right on the line. The Cavaliers ultimately lost 15-11.
Virginia took the court against the Wolfpack (17-3, 7-2 ACC) Saturday seeking to build off the previous night’s improvements. The squad surged out of the gate to take the first set 27-25 with a .333 hitting percentage.
But Virginia’s night ended in defeat three sets later as the Cavaliers gave up significant leads deep into each of the last three rounds. In the second set the team tallied eight points to turn a 7-4 deficit into a 12-7 lead. They gave up 14 of the last 17 points, however, to drop the round 25-19.
The third set brought another collapse, as Virginia led 20-14 before ceding seven consecutive points to lose 25-23. The fourth and final set followed the same disappointing pattern, and the Wolfpack scored six consecutive points to swing from three down to three up for a 25-21 win.
The Cavaliers’ mental mistakes frequently prevented them from stopping N.C. State’s runs.
Reliable sophomore setter Tori Janowski had a negative hitting percentage for the match. The team as a whole combined for nine service errors and 29 attacking errors.
“We’re doing a lot of really good things, getting great touches on balls, getting some good swings at times, getting some good sets, but we just can’t get a great pass, a great set, and then wail the ball out of bounds,” senior middle Jessica O’Shoney said, “It’s just making the little things, the elementary things perfect … so we can execute whenever we have the opportunities to and not make the game any harder for ourselves than we need to.”
Although the team remained competitive this weekend, it has now gone a month without winning. The Cavaliers recognize that bouncing back from a first-set loss to win the second would be nice, but winning the first two sets is even better. The squad sits on the brink of a breakthrough but still needs to connect all the pieces for a successful match.
“They’re at the edge right now, and how do you get over that last hump?” head coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “Did we take steps forward this weekend? For sure. But am I really disappointed because we could have had two wins? Yeah. … We said the other week that winning is hard, winning isn’t easy. If winning was easy, then everyone would do it.”
The team will have a strong chance at that elusive next victory when it visits James Madison Tuesday night. The Dukes (10-10, 3-3 CAA) suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Towson on Sunday and will be playing the Cavaliers on only two days’ rest. The matchup will be Virginia’s last non-conference competition of the year, as the squad faces only ACC opponents the rest of the season.