Women’s volleyball comes up short against Miami, Florida State

Virginia unable to rekindle offensive spark

sp-VolleyballUVAvsMiami-CourtesyVirginiaAthletics

Sophomore middle blocker Chino Anukwuem had solid performances over the weekend despite Virginia's losses.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

Despite a shocking comeback, Virginia (7-22, 3-15 ACC) fell to Miami (19-5, ACC 13-5) in five sets Friday on Senior Night before stumbling against Florida State (16-10, ACC 10-8) 3-1 Sunday. 

“Today was senior day for Haley [Fauntleroy]. She’s had such a big impact on us as a team, and she has led us so well,” freshman outside hitter Sarah Billiard said. “We thought that this was our chance to show Haley how much we love her and how much we want to fight for her and how much we want to win for her. That was the mindset — that we were gonna play our absolute hardest for Haley and for each other. That was a huge difference.”

After allowing three points in the first set, Virginia began their match against the postseason hopeful Miami Hurricanes with a statement kill by senior middle blocker Haley Fauntleroy. The Hurricanes and Cavaliers exchanged points, with neither team able to take a clear advantage. At midway though the set, Virginia led by one, but an aggressive Hurricanes team was able to take advantage of errors and holes in Virginia’s defense, and pulled away with a 17-11 lead that quickly snowballed into a 25-17 victory for Miami. 

In the second set, the Cavaliers waited too long to get their offense started, with Miami finding themselves with a comfortable 9-1 lead over Virginia. Despite the Cavaliers working hard to cut Miami’s lead to just two points at 11-9, Miami was able to replicate their earlier success and took the second set, 25-17. 

“The message at halftime was — [Wilson], [Billiard], Spencer, we have to take the next three sets that we’re about to play and we have to grow up, we have to learn from these next three sets,” Coach Aaron Smith said. “I knew we weren't gonna get swept, I knew that we had the fight in us to take it to four or five.”

After the half, Virginia was able to take the fight to the Hurricanes. Thanks to a good start early on in the third set, the Cavaliers were able to hold on and take it to four. Holding on to their momentum, Virginia began the fourth set with a 6-1 lead, but a big Miami run cut it to 6-6. After a close set, Miami was able to hold out against three set points, but Virginia sent it to a fifth set, 27-25.

In the fifth set, Virginia took an early 5-1 advantage over the Hurricanes, but after a 6-0 run by Miami, the Cavaliers were unable to recover and lost the set and the match, 15-10. 

“It’s hard to swallow a five set loss but we’ve learned a lot about ourselves in the match,” Smith said. “We’ve been hot and cold this whole year. We’ve played Miami into five sets twice, and I hope taking the strides we’ve learned this year will be able to set us up for future success.” 

The Cavaliers looked to dust themselves off and move on to their match against the Seminoles, taking the first set thanks to a high-powered offense that was able to outcompete the Florida State defense. After getting on the board first thanks to a kill by Billiard, the Cavaliers were able to find themselves at a comfortable lead, defending with key blocks by sophomore middle blocker Chino Anukwuem, who led the team with six. The Cavaliers were able to hold the Seminoles to just 16 points as they took the set, 25-16. 

Florida State came back against the Cavaliers, taking the next three sets despite multiple opportunities for the Cavaliers to seize the lead. In the third set, Virginia found themselves once again with a big advantage over their opponent, but bumbled the opportunity as seen by a 10-2 run by the Seminoles.  With the set tied 23-23, the Cavaliers lacked the experience to convert in such a key situation, dropping the set and later the game. 

“This weekend shows that we have a lot of resiliency,” Smith said. “We have dealt with some injuries and moved people around and the team has responded. I’m proud of this team. We are playing some good volleyball, we just have to string together some consistency.”

The Cavaliers are now in the home stretch of their season, and will next travel to Blacksburg to face off against rival Virginia Tech in the Commonwealth Clash at 4 p.m. Wednesday. 

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