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For the second straight season and only the second time in school history, the Virginia volleyball team is headed to the NCAA Championship Tournament.

After finishing their regular season with Saturday's 3-0 sweep of American, the Cavaliers (19-11, 9-7 ACC) received the bid Sunday evening.

Virginia is scheduled to play Arizona Thursday on the University of Texas-Austin campus in the first round.

Last season the Cavs virtually were assured of a berth after finishing the regular season second in the ACC. But a fourth-place finish this year, combined with a loss in the semifinals of the Conference Tournament, placed Virginia's chances for the NCAAs very much in doubt.

"We knew we were a bubble team and we knew it was a pretty big bubble," Cavalier Coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton said. "We knew we needed to win in the first round [of the ACC's] and have the Tournament finish close to seed with no major upsets, which is what happened."

The Cavaliers' three-game sweep of American in the regular season finale also played a big role. The Eagles entered the match unbeaten on their home floor this season, but the Cavs ruined their Senior Night with the 3-0 trouncing.

"That win, I think, got us in the Tournament," Shelton said.

With the future of their season in doubt, the Cavaliers convened at Shelton's house Sunday night and watched the announcement of the bracket on TV, something the Virginia club did not do last season.

Watching the drawing as it happened proved excruciating for the Cavs.

"It was really nerve-wracking because we weren't sure" if we'd qualify, outside hitter Whitney Bilger said. "All of a sudden, our name popped up in yellow."

With Virginia's spot in the tourney assured, the Cavs now have their sights set on the No. 19 Wildcats (19-10).

"It is really exciting to have back to back appearances," Bilger said. "We're all really excited and fired up to beat Arizona"


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