Cavaliers serve up three wins at season-opening Thunder Invitational
Bausback named tournament MVP, Sears and Suber join her on all-tourney team
Picked to finish sixth in the conference by ACC head coaches, the Virginia volleyball team began its season this past weekend against Illinois-Chicago, Eastern Michigan and host Marshall at the Thunder Invitational in Huntington, West Virginia.
The Cavaliers defeated Illinois-Chicago 3-1 (25-20, 24-26, 25-18, 25-23) on the first night of the tournament and returned to the court Saturday to beat Eastern Michigan 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 26-24, 25-22) and Marshall 3-0 (27-25, 25-20, 28-26).
The Cavaliers have not won all three matches of an opening away tournament since 2010. This is the second year in a row, however, in which the team has won all three season-opening matches.
Junior middle hitter Natalie Bausback was named tournament MVP for her efforts in the invitational. Bausback led the Cavaliers in total blocks last year and matched a career high against both Illinois-Chicago and Eastern Michigan by blocking nine shots in each game.
Virginia won the first set against Illinois-Chicago but lost the second after only posting a .048 hitting percentage. In the winning sets, the Cavaliers had hitting percentages of .353, .280 and .290.
Hitting percentage was also a deciding factor against Eastern Michigan. The Cavaliers were down a set after Eastern Michigan’s explosive first set, in which they outhit Virginia .256 to .143. Eastern Michigan hit only .050, .077 and .047 for the remainder of the match.
The Eastern Michigan offense was less lethal in the final three sets, in large part because of Virginia’s sophomore defensive specialist Lexi Riccolo. Riccolo had a career-high 23 digs in the match.
Junior outside hitter Kayla Sears joined Riccolo in reaching a career high this weekend by blocking eight shots against Marshall, the Cavaliers’ last opponent of the tournament. The Cavaliers trailed in all three sets against the Thundering Herd, but came back each time for the sweep.
Sears also had double-digit kills in all three matches. For her efforts, she was named to the all-tournament team along with sophomore defensive specialist Karlie Suber and Bausback.
Virginia will play its first home games this weekend against LIU Brooklyn, Navy and Alabama in the annual Cavalier Classic.