Virginia travels south to battle Florida State, Miami
Team eyes upsets following first conference win
The Virginia volleyball team nabbed its first ACC win Saturday against Wake Forest, but it faces a more daunting challenge this weekend. After playing four of their last five matches at home, the Cavaliers travel to challenge two of the conference’s most elite programs: No. 12 Florida State and No. 24 Miami.
“[The Wake Forest win] gives us a lot of momentum going into this really tough weekend against two ranked teams,” sophomore middle Morgan Blair said. “We’ve been working for a win the entire season … it’s a big confidence-builder, and our hard work is finally starting to pay off.”
Virginia snapped its eight-match losing skid against James Madison Oct. 16 and has now won two of its last three matches.
The Cavaliers’ control of the net factored heavily into Saturday’s win against Wake Forest, as the team totaled 16.0 blocks while hitting .272.
The team has struggled with its overwhelming youth at outside hitter. The top three players at the position are all freshmen, and each faced a demanding transition from high school to the college level.
What was once a weakness, however, has evolved into a strength. The outside hitters starred during the Cavaliers’ most recent bouts. Against Wake Forest, freshmen hitters Kayla Sears and Natalie Bausback combined for 41 kills with only four errors. Bausback alone has averaged 18.7 kills and 4.6 blocks during the last three matches.
“Whenever we have good games we always block a lot of balls,” sophomore setter Tori Janowski said. “We need to step up on our blocking game, have our hitters hit above .200 [hitting percentage] and be a tough serving team. The more the other team is out of system, the more we can score and keep them from scoring.”
Virginia will rely on its improved outside hitters as it takes on Florida State and Miami this weekend.
The No. 12 Seminoles (18-2, 10-1 ACC) are notorious for their overpowering play at the net, which carried them to the final four in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Florida State rides a 13-match winning streak, including a sweep Wednesday night against archrival No. 11 Florida.
The No. 24 Hurricanes (18-3, 10-1 ACC) have an eight-match streak of their own and look to supplant the Seminoles as the ACC’s top team. Miami relies on its athleticism around the court to prevent opponents from notching kills.
The weekend marks Virginia’s second match against each team. Miami cruised to a 3-0 victory in Charlottesville earlier this season, and Florida State captured a 3-1 win.
The Cavaliers hope to take advantage of the lessons learned from these losses during this weekend’s rematches. The coaches and players understand what they must fix from the first contests, but also know Miami and Florida State will make adjustments as well.
“We’ve gotten better, so we know they’ve gotten better too,” Blair said. “We just know that we have to be more crisp than we were last time. Having already played them once, it gives us a better idea of what we’re going to have to do.”
As the conference’s top teams, both Florida State and Miami seek deep playoff runs. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are using different benchmarks of success. A victory against either Florida team would be a huge accomplishment for the program and a testament to its progress since the start of the year.
“[The team’s] confidence is pretty high right now, and I just want them to get better,” coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “That’s what we talk about all the time. I think if they continue to work and get better there’s more wins for them before this season is over, and that’s what I want to happen.”