The Virginia volleyball team will be looking to improve upon the progress it made last season as the team heads into the 2019 campaign this week. The Cavaliers finished with an overall record of 8-20 and an ACC record of 4-14 last year in Coach Aaron Smith’s second season at the helm. Virginia secured several memorable victories, including a thrilling five-set victory over rival Virginia Tech in early November. After winning seven games each in 2016 and 2017, the Cavaliers not only improved their record but were also better statistically with a higher-hitting percentage than past seasons. Going into the 2019 season, Virginia returns all of the key contributors from last year’s team after only losing one senior to graduation. Junior outside hitter Sarah Billiard was named to the All-ACC Preseason Team, as selected by ACC head coaches. Billiard led the Cavaliers with 368 kills in 2018 — an average of 3.44 kills per set. Junior setter Megan Wilson recorded 706 assists for Virginia while senior setter Jennifer Wineholt finished second on the team with 362. The Cavaliers had five players record over 100 digs on defense, including senior defensive specialist Kelsey Miller, junior defensive specialist Alex Spencer, sophomore outside hitter Grace Turner, Wilson and Wineholt. Senior middle blocker Chino Anukwuem and sophomore middle blocker Milla Ciprian also return for the Cavaliers after each starting at least 20 matches last season. The Cavaliers are set to bring in a promising freshman class as well, including four players named to the AVCA Under Armour High School All-America teams. While Virginia is not ranked in the preseason top-25, it is scheduled to face ranked teams in conference play in Pittsburgh and Louisville — No. 12 and No. 25, respectively. With a nice blend of youth and experience, the Cavaliers are expected to take a step forward this season and make some noise in the ACC, even against the better teams in the conference. Virginia plays its first match of the season against Furman Friday night at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Gymnasium. The Cavaliers will then play two matches Saturday against Loyola and Coastal Carolina. All three matches will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.