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Cavaliers suffer 3-0 loss to Florida State

As the Virginia women's volleyball team took the court Sunday before an emotional Senior Day crowd recognizing seniors Simona Kuipers and Kiersten Kaufman, the Cavaliers looked to end a five-match losing streak with an upset of Florida State.

Despite solid early play, however, the Cavaliers (7-22, 1-12 ACC) were unable to capitalize on their chances and were swept by the Seminoles, 3-0 (30-24, 30-13, 30-25). With the win, Florida State (18-8, 9-3) moves into a tie for second place in the ACC, while the Cavaliers must look to their last three regular season games to secure the eighth seed in the conference tournament.

"We wanted to approach this match playing all out, having a good time, and trying to improve on what we do," Virginia Coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton said. "We started off that way, but then Florida State answered with some pressure, and we just haven't been able to respond to pressure all year."

After the Seminoles opened the scoring, a pair of aces by sophomore middle Alexis Geocaris staked the Cavaliers to an early lead that they would hold for most of the game.

Paced by the assists of sophomore setter Lily Phillips and junior middle Shannon Boyle's five kills, the Cavaliers displayed the teamwork for which they have been searching all season, covering the floor well on defense and setting up shots on offense.

As the game progressed, however, the Seminoles remerged behind senior outside hitter Erica Bunch and finally pulled ahead at 20-19. Virginia would tie the score again at 22-22 with a powerful kill by junior outside hitter Paige Davis, but an 8-2 closing run by Florida State left Virginia empty-handed.

"I think that we came out fired up and ready to play," Boyle said. "We started off well in the beginning, but we just let our mistakes get to us in the middle of the first game."

If the first game was disappointing for the Cavaliers, however, the second game was an unmitigated disaster. Returning to the court after the break, Virginia quickly dropped seven of the first eight points and, after exchanging sideouts with the Seminoles to move to 8-2, proved unable to make any ground on the scoreboard.

After hitting a solid .333 average in the first game, the Cavaliers hit only .063 in the second and committed a number of basic errors on defense and attack. Senior outside hitters Alex Sevillano and Kristin Frye led the Florida State attack with nine combined kills, while the strong serving of sophomore middle hitter Aisha Carr carried the visitors as they finished off the game.

The second game "was one of our worst games all year," Shelton said. "Other teams put their pressure on us and we break down, we fight among ourselves and don't play as a team."

Boyle agreed, noting that the team's struggles were not physical, but mental.

"It's obviously all mental," Boyle said. "Once we make one mistake, we don't forget about it. I think we just let our mistakes get to us, and it's not a good thing to let happen. We had good moments, we had bad moments, we just had too many bad moments today."

The third game began almost exactly as the second game had ended, with Florida State opening a 4-1 lead behind a pair of service aces by Frye and ball handling errors by Virginia. Another powerful attack by Davis calmed her Cavalier teammates down, however, and they responded with a great deal more enthusiasm than in the second game. Virginia came within one point of pulling even at 15-14 when Geocaris and junior outside hitter Katie Synan provided a solid block at the net. Despite the Cavaliers' inability to hold the serve, the team doggedly stuck with the Seminoles until 22-20, when a Florida State ace by Frye started a 5-1 run that forced Virginia to the brink. The Cavaliers held off three match points, but an emphatic spike by Florida State senior middle Dawn Hough closed the game and the match.

"I was actually really proud of the girls for coming out in game three and pulling together and playing better," Shelton said. "Even though we didn't win, we played as a team and showed a lot more heart."


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