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Despite passion, Cavs falls hard to Hoyas

As the Virginia women's volleyball team reports for practice this afternoon, there will no doubt be tinges of disappointment over the host Cavaliers' third-place showing at the Jefferson Cup Tournament this weekend.

Yet as the team reflects upon Sunday night's hard-fought 3-1 (32-30, 26-30, 30-27, 30-28) loss to tournament champion Georgetown, the Cavaliers (3-4) will find much in which to take heart.

For what the kills, digs and errors on the box score do not show is that the young Virginia team

-- fueled by a newfound competitiveness and emotion -- has finally begun to employ its talent and potential on a consistent basis.

"We feel that we played really well," Virginia coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton said. "We are proud of our effort, and we gained a lot of heart tonight.We haven't had a lot of emotion in our game, and that's what tonight was about. I'm proud of the team for stepping up, falling off the edge of the emotional grip we've been in, and letting loose."

Entering the weekend on a two-match winning streak, the Cavaliers continued their recent success by racing out to a two-game lead against College of Charleston. Paced by the attacks of outside hitters Paige Davis and Celeste Laborde, Virginia looked poised to sweep the Cougars in three games until the team's nerves -- an all-too-familiar reminder of last year -- got the better of them. Hitting an excellent .459 as a team in the fourth game, Charleston roared back to even the match and force a decisive fifth game.

It was then, at 1-1 in the fifth game, that misfortune struck the Cavaliers. While scrambling for a dig, setter Lily Phillips collided with a teammate, resulting in a sprained ankle and her exit from the match. Without a second setter on the roster, Virginia enlisted first year Kristin Chaney as Phillips' replacement, though Chaney is an outside hitter with no previous experience at setter. As Phillips received treatment on the bench, the shaken Cavaliers fell short again, 15-11.

"I can't say when [Lily] will come back," Aldrich Shelton said. "She sprained her ankle, but we don't think that there is break. Kristin will be setting until she returns."

After a night to prepare, the Cavaliers opened the Saturday morning session with a match against William & Mary.A shaky offensive start was offset by outstanding service -- Davis had four aces in the first game -- and Virginia countered the Tribe's attacks with strong defensive blocking in sweeping to a 3-0 (30-27, 30-25, 30-20) win. The victory avenged a 3-0 whitewashing by the Tribe last year.

In the evening session, Virginia had the opportunity to avenge a similar loss to Georgetown (4-2).

Refusing to be intimidated by a Hoya squad that already had posted two easy victories, the Cavaliers emerged from the locker room noticeably loose and ready to play. Led again by the offense of Davis, Laborde and Simona Kuaipers, Virginia pressed their opponents to the limits before falling in game one, 32-30.The Cavaliers' defense, marshaled by libero Whitney Ashcraft, held the Hoyas off as Virginia took the second game, 30-26. The final two games featured a number of long rallies and side outs, with frequent lead changes as Georgetown took the match 30-27, 30-28.

Even so, the team is feeling upbeat heading into Tuesday night's match at Virginia Tech.

Davis, named to the All-Tournament team for her offensive leadership, said she saw great improvement in the team.

"I would say that we are already ten times ahead of where we were last year at this time," Davis said.

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