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Squad travels to Florida

Maes hopes to avenge earlier losses to Sunshine State opponents

After dropping two home contests 1-3 to Clemson and Georgia Tech, the Virginia volleyball team begins a four-match road trip starting this weekend against ACC foes Miami and No. 19 Florida State Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Virginia (8-13, 2-9 ACC) travels to the Sunshine State still smarting from its most recent setbacks in a season of disheartening defeats.

"[The matches were] definitely disappointing," junior setter Beth Wildermuth said. "We prepared really well. I think that it was a little bit of a heartbreaker that we lost."

The Cavaliers' serving and passing game has been a major source of frustration for coach Lee Maes, who hopes an added focus on improving these areas will yield successful results during the next two weekends.

"We spend hours and hours on the serving and passing game," Maes said. "I would say it's probably a majority of what we spend the practices on because [they're] the two most important aspects of the game. It's not necessarily from a technical standpoint, because we feel like they have a great technical base. Now it's more so the mental aspect of it - can they fight through keeping their technique and knowing that if they make an error they're going to be under stress?"

The Cavaliers have already faced both the Hurricanes (17-3, 8-3 ACC) and the Seminoles (17-4, 11-0 ACC) this season, which means Virginia will be better prepared for their styles of play.

"The great thing about it is it's the second time we get to play them, so we'll obviously get to take from what we learned the first time and make some adjustments," Maes said.

Improvements in the serving and passing game will go a long way to securing a successful result this time around for the Cavaliers, who failed to win a single set against either team during their respective first meetings. Virginia allowed both teams to hit at an attack percentage of better than .350 - with Miami at .387 and Florida State at .358 - while the Cavaliers were under .260 during each match.

While no Hurricane or Seminole player recorded more than 13 kills against Virginia during the teams' initial matches, the Cavalier squad still seeks the right combination of players to control the ball defensively and get passes to the right places on the floor. Maes has redesigned the lineup multiple times, most recently by starting freshman libero Sydney Shelton in an effort to bolster the team defensively.

"[Shelton's] been put in a big role, especially as a [freshman]," Wildermuth said. "She's doing really well. I think she feels like there's a lot of pressure on her, [but she's] stepping into her role. It's a little difficult changing the rotations all the time because we have to get used to new players doing each thing, but ... it's coming along."

Stopping the attacks of two talented teams will be challenging for the Cavaliers, but the team remains hopeful and continues to find ways to fuel its efforts.

"Last year we lost to [both of] them at their place[s]," Wildermuth said. "[We] had a rough weekend [but] a few weeks later we came back and played the best ever and beat both of them at Mem[orial Gymnasium], so we are looking to go out there and ruin them in their home courts. I'm excited"

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