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​Volleyball heads north to battle Boston College, Syracuse

Virginia embarks on third ACC road trip of season, aims for first NCAA Tournament appearance since ‘99

<p>Junior defensive specialist Karlie Suber led Virginia with nine digs Saturday against NC State. The Cavaliers downed the Wolfpack in straight sets. </p>

Junior defensive specialist Karlie Suber led Virginia with nine digs Saturday against NC State. The Cavaliers downed the Wolfpack in straight sets.

Virginia’s trip to the Tar Heel state resulted in two lopsided affairs. Losing to North Carolina in straight sets and then beating North Carolina State by that same margin, Virginia completed its 12th away match of the season. This weekend, the Cavaliers — who have only played five home matches in 2015 — will be on the road yet again at Boston College and Syracuse.

“[Playing on the road] is tough because they’re missing school. They’re on a bus,” Virginia coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “The good thing [is] I think we’re battle-tested.”

First up, Virginia (12-5, 4-2 ACC) will take on the Boston College Eagles (9-10, 1-6 ACC) Friday at 7:30 p.m. Although the Eagles have not won a set since Oct. 2 against Notre Dame — losing their past four matches in straight sets — Hohenshelt said they’re a good team.

“It’s probably the best Boston College team I’ve seen in [the] four years I’ve been here,” he said. “There was a very large group of freshmen that came in that first year, and they’re seniors. They’re playing very, very well.”

Outscoring opponents 1,549 to 1,533 this season, the Eagles are led by outside hitters senior Katty Workman (4.40 points per set) and sophomore Sol Calvete (2.95 points per set). While Boston College has lost 10 matches this season, only three of those losses have come at home — something Virginia, whose five losses have all come on the road, should see as a warning sign.

After facing Boston College, the Cavaliers will travel to New York Sunday to face the Syracuse Orange (14-4, 5-2 ACC) at 1 p.m. The Cavaliers have been unable to beat Syracuse since it moved over from the Big East to the ACC in 2013.

“We always have a difficulty with Syracuse,” junior defensive specialist Karlie Suber said. “I don’t know what it is, but some teams just match up really well against each other.”

Led by the senior outside hitter trio of Monika Salkute, Nicolette Serratore and Silvi Uattara, who have combined for an average of over 10 points per set, Syracuse’s offense has put up 1,616 points this season. More impressively, however, Syracuse’s defense has held opponents to only 1,423 points. Although Virginia’s offense has put up 1,541 points, it may have trouble scoring against a powerful Orange defense.

“We’ve got to be ready,” Hohenshelt said. “We’re going to have to serve really tough to keep them out of system.”

Currently sitting at sixth in the ACC, Virginia is looking to make a move into the NCAA Tournament, which allows 64 teams into its field every year. This year would mark Virginia’s first tournament appearance since 1999.

“We’ve kind of developed a way of keeping ourselves accountable and keeping our teammates accountable for what we need to do to get to our goals,” Suber said. “I mean, we’ve wanted to be in the tournament since ’99, and this is the year that we stopped messing around and actually got to it and decided that that’s what we wanted to do. And so we’re going to do it.”

With the No. 34 RPI — a measure of a team’s strength of schedule and quality of wins — in the country, Virginia has looked impressive so far in 2015. However, it must accumulate victories, continuing into this weekend, in order to break the 15-year dry spell.

“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good position,” Hohenshelt said. “Now we have to stay in the position or better it. So, two wins this week is really, really big for us.”

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