Volleyball concludes season with win

After falling 3-1 Friday to Pittsburgh, Cavaliers top Maryland 3-1 Saturday


Freshman outside hitter Jasmine Burton had 15 kills in the team’s victory over Maryland.

After defeating Maryland, the Virginia volleyball team locked arms and sang the “Good Ol’ Song” one last time Saturday night, wrapping up the 2013 season. The Cavaliers split their last two matches, falling 3-1 against Pittsburgh Friday before beating the Terrapins 3-1.

“We’re excited that we ended with a win, but we’re still sad because we were so close to getting to the [NCAA] tournament,” freshman Jasmine Burton said. “It’s motivation for next year, to know that we were so close this year and that we can do it next year.”

The final weekend didn’t start the way Virginia (18-14, 11-9 ACC) hoped, as it dropped a four-set match 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, and 25-8 to the visiting Panthers (19-14, 11-9 ACC). Pitt took the first set after hitting .378, but the Cavaliers rebounded to take the second, finishing the frame on a 14-6 run after trailing 17-11. Virginia was unable to mount a comeback in the third set, then collapsed in the fourth, falling behind 3-16 to open the round.

“We just didn’t do the right things at the right time,” senior Emily Rottman said.

Burton finished with a staggering 17 kills and no errors and the team as a whole hit .285. But neither of those performances were enough to overcome a number of defensive and passing problems, including 11 return errors.

The Cavaliers earned a better result the following night, defeating Maryland (13-19, 5-15 ACC) in four sets, 22-25, 26-24, 25-22, and 25-22. The Terrapins claimed their sole set of the night in the first, breaking a 22-22 tie with three straight points. Virginia bounced back in the second, fighting off set point at 23-24, and rolled in the third thanks to a seven-point run in the middle of the round. The fourth saw the teams trade streaks, with a pair of blocks by junior Morgan Blair eventually capping off the Cavaliers’ win.

“I felt like in practice we were working really hard, and especially coming off the Pitt loss, we decided that we wanted to go out with a bang,” Burton said. “I felt we all came together as a team and played for each other and that paid off in the end.”

Freshman Haley Kole posted 13 kills, one of four Virginia players to reach double digits on the night, and finished the season with 430, the second most by a freshman in team history. Rottman, in her last match as a Cavalier, recorded a team-high 24 digs. She concluded her career with a total of 1,770 digs, the third most by any Virginia player ever.

“It’s such a weird feeling [playing my last match in Memorial Gymnasium],” Rottman said. “I love playing here. It’s such a great atmosphere, and it’s really sad that this is my last one. But I’ve been through a lot and it’s such a great memory to have.”

Before the start of the Saturday’s match, a ceremony was held to honor the three seniors leaving the program — Rottman, Mallory Woolridge, and Rachel Clark. Rottman has been the libero for each of the past two seasons, leading the team from the back row. Woolridge and Clark were major contributors earlier in their careers, but were both sidelined by repeated injuries.

“If we get more people like Emily Rottman that can play, I’ll take them all,” coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “Mallory and Rachel have had some difficult things with injuries, but they continue to support the team and have been there every step of the way. They’re leaving a good legacy here, and I’m extremely excited to have coached them.”

With the close of the season, the Cavaliers can reflect on the major progress they made in the past year. After finishing at the bottom of the ACC last year, the team posted its first winning season since 2008 and best overall record since 2007. The team graduates only one senior who regularly played, and Virginia saw great production from its underclassmen — seven of the 10 players who saw the court Saturday were freshmen or sophomores. Though the Cavaliers exceeded many of the expectations set for them this season, their goals for next year are even higher.

“I want them to enjoy the win, but I also want them to understand that there were some wins we left out on the table and we could be playing next weekend [in the NCAA Tournament],” Hohenshelt said. “We’ll learn from it, and I couldn’t be more proud of this group. We took a big step for the program this year, and I hope there’s a lot more big steps to come in the future.”

Published December 2, 2013 in Sports

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