Volleyball opens 2014 home schedule

Team hosts Cavalier Classic after starting season 3-0 in West Virginia


The Virginia volleyball team will welcome LIU Brooklyn, Navy and Alabama for the annual Cavalier Classic this weekend, kicking off Virginia’s first home games of the season.

The Cavaliers (3-0, 0-0 ACC) opened up the 2014 campaign on the road last weekend against Illinois-Chicago, Eastern Michigan and host Marshall in the Thunder Invitational.

Though the Cavaliers were able to secure three wins in their first opening road tournament sweep since 2010, players and coaches both said they still saw room for improvement.

“We were working out a few kinks, and we still have few kinks to work out, but last weekend was definitely helpful in what we needed to do to keep working and getting better,” sophomore defensive specialist Karlie Suber said.

The Cavaliers are currently hitting .194, below last season’s .232 average. They committed 66 attacking errors across the three matches, a figure which will need to come down as the season progresses.

“I think we did a lot of things we can get better at,” coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “We have to be better offensively, and the interesting thing is that’s always been the strength of our team.”

Where the offense fell short, though, defense exceeded expectations, with many Cavalier players reaching career bests in defensive statistics last weekend.

“One of the nice things is that our blocking and defense are a lot further ahead than they were last year, so that’s a really positive from this group right now,” Hohenshelt said.

Among the players who reached or matched career highs were junior middle hitter Natalie Bausback, who matched her career-best nine blocks in a game twice last weekend, junior outside hitter Kayla Sears, who posted a career-high eight blocks against Marshall, and sophomore defensive specialist Lexi Riccolo, who added a career-high 23 digs against Eastern Michigan.

Along with Suber, Bausback and Sears were named to the All-Tournament team.

“I was just kind of trying to help out the rest of the team … talking a lot and doing my share so that we can do what we needed to do to win,” Suber said.

Though the Cavaliers have yet to shape a complete team, Hohenshelt said she likes how the team has responded to pressure.

“The first game against Marshall we were down 10-1 or 10-2,” she said. “We weren’t doing a single thing right, but we didn’t panic, and we just slowly grinded to get back in the match, and that’s a real positive from this group. So the question is how do we not get down 10-2.”

The Cavaliers will need to put offense, defense, confidence and calmness together this weekend to come back from a 10-2 deficit when they face LIU Brooklyn and Alabama, both of whom made the NCAA Tournament last year.

“I like that we have strength of competition every weekend, and it’s a nice progression for us getting ready for ACC play,” Hohenshelt said.

Virginia will open the Cavalier Classic against LIU Brooklyn on Friday night. The Blackbirds have won eight of the last 10 North Eastern Conference championships — including last year’s, after winning all 16 of their conference games. They have a good chance of doing so again, this season returning the NEC conference player, setter and libero of the year.

The Blackbirds did, however, go 1-2 against non-conference opponents last weekend. LIU Brooklyn lost its first game 0-3 against tournament host Loyola Marymount, hitting only .020 in the match. The Blackbirds were also swept by UCLA before finally securing a 3-0 win against Binghamton to close their weekend.

On Saturday morning, the Cavaliers will face Navy, who opened their season at home last weekend. Unlike the Cavaliers, Navy is a young team with only four upperclassmen on the roster.

Navy won its first match against Providence 3-1 before splitting its next two games, falling to Southern Utah 3-1 before defeating Citadel 3-0 in a doubleheader Saturday.

The Cavaliers will close out the tournament against Alabama, who went 4-0 last weekend against Northern Iowa, Southeastern Missouri, Memphis and Saint Louis.

The Crimson Tide had one of its more successful seasons last year after winning 24 games, the most for the program since 1995, making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.

Alabama beat Northern Iowa and Southeast Missouri State 3-1 Friday before beating Memphis 3-2 and sweeping Saint Louis.

“I’m really excited to be back playing at home,” Sears said. “These teams will be fun — to see how we match up with them and to work hard.”

The tournament tips off at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Gym. Virginia will play its first game at 7 p.m.

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