Weekend a mixed bag for volleyball

Cavaliers upset Virginia Tech before being swept by Clemson

grace-turner

Freshman outside hitter Turner led all Cavaliers with 10 kills against Clemson.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The Virginia volleyball team kicked off its last home slate this past weekend as the team hopes to end the season with some positive results.

Virginia (8-18, 4-12 ACC) started off the weekend in the best possible way, welcoming fierce rivals Virginia Tech (14-13, 5-10 ACC) to Memorial Gymnasium and winning the match in a five-set thriller. 

The Hokies won an incredibly tight first set 25-22 before the Cavaliers used a six-block performance in the second frame to win it 25-16 and level the match.

Virginia Tech responded with some impressive blocking of its own in the third set, using back-to-back rejections to secure the 2-1 lead.

With the game on the line, the Cavaliers responded in the fourth with seven blocks and an all-around team effort to force the fifth and final set.

"We talked about it in the locker room afterwards," Coach Aaron Smith said. "They really stepped up with their blocking and our defense there after the third set. It was okay up to that point, but we knew we had an opportunity to turn some points with our blocking and our defense.”

In the decisive frame, the Hokies jumped out to an early 9-5 lead before Virginia fought back with its own 5-0 run. The two teams went back and forth until the set was tied 14-14. The Cavaliers, hungry for some vengeance after the Hokies swept them earlier in the season, used kills from sophomore outside hitter Sarah Billiard and freshman outside hitter Grace Turner to secure the set and the match. 

Defense was key for Virginia as the team recorded 20 blocks — most by Virginia in a five-setter since 2004. Junior middle blocker Chino Anukwuem led with nine blocks, while freshman middle blocker Milla Ciprian and Billiard each added eight. Offensively, four Virginia players were in double figures in kills including Billiard, Turner, junior right-side hitter Jelena Novakovic and Anukwuem.

Unfortunately, Virginia could not continue its form Saturday night as the team fell to Clemson (15-13, 6-9 ACC) in straight sets. 

Clemson was on cruise control in the first set, opening with a red-hot 15-3 start, and hitting .476 as Virginia had no response to the Tigers’ attack.

The Cavaliers played better in the following two sets, never allowing Clemson to hit over .400 again. However, the Tigers capitalized on crucial Virginia errors in both frames to win the sets and complete the sweep. 

Turner led all Cavaliers with 10 kills while junior libero Kelsey Miller recorded a match-high 10 digs. 

Virginia will next face Georgia Tech (16-11, 5-9 ACC) and celebrate Senior Day in its final home game of the season. 

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