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Virginia drops consecutive games to ACC opponents

The Virginia women's volleyball team opened its conference schedule at University Hall this weekend with a pair of disappointing defeats. After a strong showing against Clemson in a 3-1 (33-31, 27-30, 30-21, 30-28) loss Friday night, the Cavaliers (6-11, 0-2 ACC) were swept Saturday night by No. 25 Georgia Tech, 3-0 (30-19, 30-18, 30-18).

Paced by career-highs from outside hitter Katie Synan (22 kills) and libero Whitney Ashcraft (29 digs), Virginia kept pace with the Tigers (10-6, 1-0) in the first match, even coming back from a 16-8 deficit in the second game to pull even at 1-1 and raise hopes of a Cavalier victory. The leadership of Ashcraft and outside hitters Simona Kuipers and Paige Davis, who recorded a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs, was not enough, however, as the young Cavaliers again were unable to finish off their opponents.

"We played really, really well against Clemson," Virginia coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton said. "We executed what we had worked on, for the most part. We played tough, we played well, we met most of our statistical goals, but we just couldn't finish at the end, and that's been a problem for us this year."

Against Georgia Tech (16-2, 2-0), however, there were few advantages on which to capitalize. From the very beginning, the Cavaliers appeared a half-step behind star setter Kele Eveland and the Yellow Jackets' offense.

"It's tough to face the best team in the conference coming off of a high, playing so well" against Clemson, Aldrich Shelton said. "Tonight was disappointing, and we wanted to play better. We have to find a way to put it all together and get six players playing all at the same time."

After winning the first point -- a feat they would accomplish in all three games -- the Cavaliers quickly dropped the next five points. Hitting only .105 as a team in the first game, with eight hitting and three service errors, the Cavaliers were unable to catch up to an on-target Tech attack that hit .469.

"Georgia Tech runs a really fast offense," Ashcraft said. "Starting with their passing, they run lower balls both on their passes and their sets, which gives our blockers less time to get ready and our diggers less time to get set. It's difficult, but we're going to see a lot more teams like that in the ACC, so we need to get used to that."

Poor hitting plagued the Cavaliers again in the second game -- 16 errors again allowed the Yellow Jackets to open an early and insurmountable lead. Taking the court for the third game, however, the Cavaliers quickly opened up their largest lead of the night, at 4-1. Solid play by Georgia Tech outside hitter Alexandra Preiss swung the advantage back to the visitors' side, however, and the Yellow Jackets closed out the game with a 10-3 run to take the match.

"I think we really need to work on our own game and minimize our own errors," Ashcraft said. "If we can do that, and if we play our own game, we can compete with almost every team in the conference.Once we learn how to take care of our side consistently, we'll be a lot more competitive."


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