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Volleyball sweeps Virginia Tech to end the season on a high note

The Cavaliers only conceded one set to the Hokies all year

<p>Senior right-side hitter Jelena Novakovic had nine kills in her last match in a Virginia uniform.</p>

Senior right-side hitter Jelena Novakovic had nine kills in her last match in a Virginia uniform.

In the final game of the regular season, the Virginia volleyball team knocked off rival Virginia Tech Wednesday in Blacksburg. 

The matchup marked the second time the Cavaliers (13-18, 5-13 ACC) have defeated the Hokies (11-20, 4-14 ACC) this season. Virginia won the previous contest at home 3-1 — this time the Cavaliers managed a shutout, winning 3-0 in straight sets.

The Cavaliers picked up right where they left off against Boston College last Friday, with a red-hot start in the opening set.

After falling behind 6-4 early, the Hokies worked their way back, eventually going up 8-7. However, their lead was short-lived, as a four-point Virginia run sparked by an ace from senior setter Jennifer Wineholt put the Cavaliers back in command 11-8.

Virginia grew its lead to 20-13 as the set progressed, with key contributions from Wineholt and senior right-side hitter Jelena Novakovic. The Cavaliers remained strong offensively and defensively for the remainder of the set, clinching it 25-17 following a kill from junior outside hitter Christine Jarman. 

The second set was more of a lopsided affair with Virginia taking control from the very start. Junior outside hitter Sarah Billiard stepped up to the plate this time with back-to-back kills to put the Cavaliers up 8-3.

The Hokies demonstrated only minimal resistance in the set. After falling behind 12-4, Virginia Tech scored three straight with a kill coming from senior outside hitter Ester Talamazzi. Despite the flurry, the Cavaliers continued to grow their lead, positioning themselves to win the set up 21-12. Virginia clinched the set 25-13 on yet another kill from Billiard.

The third and final set was the most competitive and closely-fought one of the evening. The set was close at the start with the Cavaliers nursing a two-point lead 9-7. But Virginia created separation quickly with another four-point run.

The Hokies rallied back at the midway point of the set after trailing 15-10, coming from behind to tie it up at 15 apiece with Talamazzi combining with junior middle blocker Marissa Cerchio to close the gap.

After Virginia retook the lead by a narrow 17-16 margin, the Cavaliers created separation via a three-point run led by Novakovic. The team rode the lead out to a victory, clinching the set 25-22.

While Virginia’s hitting percentage was solid at .198 average, the team's defensive performance was even more impressive — the Cavaliers held Virginia Tech to an average of .000 percent.

Offensively, Billiard and Novakovic led the Cavaliers with nine kills each, and Cerchio and Talamazzi led the Hokies with six kills each.

Billiard also boasted impressive defensive stats — along with sophomore middle blocker Milla Ciprian and senior middle blocker Chino Anukwuem, she had four blocks.

The win against Virginia Tech made the 2019 season the Cavaliers’ highest win total since 2015.