Volleyball splits weekend double-header

Cavaliers secure first ACC victory of the season


 Virginia freshman outside hitter Grace Turner led the team with 13 kills this past weekend against Syracuse.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The Virginia volleyball team finished its four-game homestand this past weekend with games against Boston College and Syracuse at Memorial Gymnasium. The Cavaliers went 1-1 as they picked up their first conference win against BC before falling short to Syracuse a few days later.

With their last victory coming against George Mason Sept. 8, the Cavaliers (5-11, 1-5 ACC) went into the weekend sorely needing a win to turn their season around. They got just that Friday night, downing Boston College (12-6, 2-4 ACC) in a five-set thriller — 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 22-25, 16-14.  

Virginia went down by five points three different times in the first set against BC but fought back each time. Then, with the game knotted at 23, freshman outside hitter Grace Turner delivered consecutive aces to secure the set and give Virginia a rare early advantage.

The second set of the match also ended 25-23. However, this time around, BC came up clutch, going on a 3-1 run to end the set and tie the game at one set apiece.

The Cavaliers were most dominant in the third set, as their lead grew to a match-high 12 before they took the set, 25-17. With seven kills and seven errors, BC was held to .000 hitting as sophomore outside hitter Clare Naughton and junior right-side hitter Cat Balido — who led the Eagles in kills with 16 and 13, respectively — only recorded a single kill between them in the set.

The fourth set was an incredibly close affair with a final score of 25-22, tying the largest lead of the entire set. Back-to-back aces from Boston College junior libido Makenzie Morrison finished the set and ensured the game would go the distance. 

In the fifth and final set, the Eagles took an early 8-4 lead, but Virginia rallied to tie it at 8-8. BC continued to put on the pressure, however, gaining back a 13-11 lead. Once again, though, the Cavaliers fought, using a pair of blocks to tie the game up. The Cavaliers surrendered only one more point before going on a 3-0 run to record their first win in conference play. 

The Cavaliers were driven by historic performances from freshman middle blocker Milla Ciprian — who had a career-high 13 blocks — and sophomore outside hitter Sarah Billiard (24 kills).

In their second game of the weekend, the Cavaliers faced Syracuse (9-5, 5-1 ACC). While Syracuse may have been the favorite, Virginia pushed the Orange to the brink on multiple sets.

Virginia had gained a five-point lead in the first set, but the Orange came back and tied it at 24 before back-to-back kills allowed Syracuse the steal the set. 

The second set began with Virginia jumping out to an early 10-3 lead led by Turner, Billiard and Ciprian, who combined for six kills during the run. However, a slew of Virginia errors allowed the Orange to fight back, neutralize Virginia’s early lead and ultimately take the set. In the third and final set, Syracuse’s 7-3 run pushed the lead to five, and the Cavaliers never recovered. 

While the match was certainly hard-fought, Syracuse’s 26-24, 25-23, 25-21 sweep on the road is a testament to the Orange’s resilience and determination, as well as to their strong position in the conference. 

Turner and Billiard led the Virginia attack with 13 and 11 kills, respectively, while sophomore setter Megan Wilson contributed 18 assists. 

Virginia will next take on NC State (8-8, 2-4 ACC) and North Carolina (5-10, 1-5 ACC) on the road this upcoming weekend. 

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