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Squad faces conference foes

North Carolina, N.C. State stand in way of third consecutive home success

For at least one week, the Virginia volleyball team is able to talk about more than moral victories or outstanding efforts. Instead, the Cavaliers finally have a winning streak to build upon.

Virginia (10-17, 4-13 ACC) swept a pair of ACC matches last week and looks to continue the trend in conference matchups against N.C. State and North Carolina at home this weekend.

"It's not necessarily what they do [but] what we do that we're trying to focus on," coach Lee Maes said. "If we serve and pass well, we play with a continued aggressive mentality, clean up our game and continue being efficient, we feel like we can continue this winning streak."

The winning started with a rousing sweep of Boston College (7-21, 3-14 ACC). Although Virginia won the match 3-0, each set was highly competitive. The Cavaliers roared back from a 17-12 deficit in the first set to win it 28-26 and overcame an 18-12 disadvantage in the third set before sophomore libero Emily Rottman's kill gave the Cavaliers a 29-27 set win and the match.

Virginia then faced border rival Maryland (9-20, 3-14 ACC) Saturday and notched a come-from-behind, 3-1 victory. After the Terrapins easily clinched the first set, the Cavaliers used a pair of close victories to claim the next three. Three late kills from senior outside hitter Simone Asque helped swing the second set the Cavaliers' way, 25-23. The Cavaliers staged a rally from 24-18 down to win 30-28 in the fourth set.

Now Virginia seeks to carry that momentum into this weekend, starting against N.C. State (19-11, 7-10 ACC). The Wolfpack suffered a six-game losing streak in conference play earlier this season, including a 3-1 defeat against Virginia. After losing to the Cavaliers, however, the Wolfpack recovered to win five of their last eight contests, including a pair of victories against Clemson and Georgia Tech last weekend.

This N.C. State squad is "completely different from teams of the past," Asque said. "They're actually similar to Boston College, I would say, in that they have strong outsides and are very scrappy."

Maes worries these "strong outsides" could pose a problem for his squad after the Cavaliers "didn't slow [Maryland's outside hitters] down very much" last weekend, he said.

After facing N.C. State, Virginia hosts North Carolina (21-7, 13-4 ACC), which rebounded from losses to Miami and Florida State to beat Georgia Tech and Clemson this past weekend by a combined 6-1 margin.

The Cavaliers believe the Tar Heels could pose many of the same problems as the Wolfpack.

"North Carolina is a very defensive oriented team." Maes said. "So that type of match is going to be one where we have to keep grinding it out."

As with N.C. State, the Cavaliers must temper North Carolina's fearsome outside hitters to leave the weekend with wins.

"UNC is a tall team and has some good outside hitters." Asque said. "So I think the main objective with both of those teams is to keep their hot players cold because they have some strong players that when they go off, it's hard to slow them down. I think that us as a team just needs to follow our team game plan very well and then we can calm the fire."

Virginia faces off against N.C. State Friday at 7 p.m. and then plays North Carolina Saturday at 7 p.m. Both matches will be held at Memorial Gymnasium.