Volleyball drops two straight against No. 23 Florida State and Miami

The Cavaliers fell to the No. 23 Seminoles in four sets before conceding a nail-biter to the Hurricanes in five sets

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Sophomore middle blocker Milla Ciprian hit a career-best .583 (7-0-12) against Miami Sunday.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

Virginia battled against No. 23 Florida State and Miami this past weekend on the road but was ultimately toppled as the Cavaliers (9-8, 1-3 ACC) couldn’t finish with a win. Junior outside hitter Sarah Billiard contributed a combined 32 kills in the matches, and sophomore middle blocker Milla Ciprian hit a career-best .583 (7-0-12) against Miami (7-4, 3-1 ACC).

Virginia made a valiant comeback attempt against No. 23 Florida State (9-3, 3-0 ACC) but ultimately fell short in four sets Friday night in Tallahassee, Fla.

The first set was tightly contested, as both teams traded points to open the match. The Cavaliers recorded two points in a row to even the set at 15-15, but the Seminoles went on a 4-1 run to take a three-point lead. Virginia responded by closing the deficit to one at 20-19, but Florida State rattled off five unanswered points to take the first set by a score of 25-19.

The second set proved less competitive as the Seminoles won 25-14. Florida State went on a 10-2 run to break an 8-8 tie, and they cruised past the Cavaliers through the rest of the set.

Facing a straight-set defeat, the Cavaliers played with a sense of urgency in the third set and stormed out to an early 5-0 lead. Florida State battled back and cut the deficit to 8-6, but Virginia went on a 3-0 run to regain its five-point cushion. The Seminoles never got closer than three points for the remainder of the set and the Cavaliers ended up winning 25-17 to keep the match alive.

Virginia carried its momentum and opened the fourth set by taking a 6-3 lead. The Cavaliers extended the lead to 17-12, and it quickly looked like they might take the set and even the match at two sets apiece. However, Florida State went on a 6-0 run to retake the lead at 18-17. Virginia evened the score at 19-19, but Florida State went on a 6-3 run to close out the match.

Billiard led the Cavaliers with 15 kills, while senior right side Jelena Novakovic added 14 kills. Senior libero Kelsey Miller left with an injury in the first set, and junior libero Alex Spencer filled in by contributing a match-high 16 digs.

The Cavaliers looked to rebound Sunday as they travelled to Coral Gables, Fla., to take on Miami. In a close-fought match, Virginia came up short losing 2-3 in five sets. The match marked only the second time the Cavaliers have played through a fifth set this season. 

The beginning of the match proved competitive, and Virginia trailed Miami 10-12 halfway through the first set. A combination of attack and ball handling errors by the Cavaliers and a service ace by junior outside hitter Janet Kalaniuvalu allowed the Hurricanes to build an 18-11 lead. Miami continued to add pressure, winning it 25-18 with a final kill by junior middle blocker Madison Dill. 

Virginia came roaring back in the second set, establishing a 17-10 lead following multiple kills by Ciprian and Billiard. The Cavaliers managed to clinch the set 25-20 despite three straight points by the Hurricanes late in the set. 

The third set was the most competitive as Virginia came out with a 4-0 lead. Miami countered to take a 12-11 advantage only to see the Cavaliers regain the lead 21-20 late in the set with a kill by freshman outside hitter Jayna Francis. However, Virginia’s apparent comeback was stunted by five straight points by the Hurricanes, who stole the set 25-21.

Virginia demonstrated determination in the fourth set as it refused to go down. The Cavaliers started on a hot streak, taking a 7-1 lead courtesy of two kills by Novakovic. The team continued to build, going up 17-7 following kills by Francis and Ciprian. Virginia looked to put away the set multiple times with a 24-15 lead, but Miami posted six straight points, closing the gap to three points at 24-21. However, the Cavalier defense stepped up to tie up the match 2-2 as blocks by junior outside hitter Christine Jarman and Ciprian delivered the set to the Cavaliers 25-21. 

The fifth and final set further demonstrated the closely-fought nature of the match as the teams were tied 8-8. However, Miami refused to relinquish offensive pressure and won the set 15-11 as freshman defensive specialist Amanda Falck put away the set and the match with a service ace. 

Virginia finished the match with 55 kills and 64 digs compared to the Hurricanes’ 53 and 54, respectively. Billiard contributed 17 kills, and Ciprian led the Cavaliers on defense with 5 blocks as Virginia held Miami to a .185 percent average. 

Virginia will continue their series of road games and travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., to take on Boston College Friday before facing Syracuse Sunday. 

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