Virginia hosts NC State Friday evening as they match up for the first time this season. The Cavaliers (1-3, 0-3 ACC) hope to get back into the win column after losing three straight games. On the other hand, the Wolfpack (0-4, 0-4 ACC) are looking for their first win of the season as they try to snap a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season.
NC State will have a great chance to secure its inaugural win of the year against Virginia as its previous two opponents — Duke and North Carolina — both sat near the top of the ACC standings. The Cavaliers, however, join the Wolfpack as one of only four teams still without a conference win. Each team is seeking to improve upon disappointing 2019 seasons in which both squads finished under the .500 mark.
In recent years, NC State has gotten the better of Virginia as the Cavaliers have failed to beat the Wolfpack in the past four seasons. With both teams struggling early this season, this game can serve as a springboard to launch either team up the conference rankings.
Players to watch
Senior setter Megan Wilson
The Maryland native will look to build off her dominant performance this past weekend. After leading Virginia in assists per set last year with 5.44, Wilson has been able to reach even greater heights this season, averaging 6.6 assists per set. She’s been especially strong recently, averaging 7.5 assists per set over the past two games. She has also been able to increase her kills per set from the past season as well, displaying the overall growth in her offensive game.
Wilson’s ability to set her teammates up for points allows her to play a critical role within the Virginia offense. Look for Wilson to have her fingerprints all over the Cavaliers’ offensive game plan this Friday.
NC State outside hitter Jade Parchment
Leading the Wolfpack in points per set and kills per set and ranking third in digs per set, Parchment has been a bright spot on a struggling NC State roster that has only been able to secure four set wins in its first four matches. The Cavaliers must make the necessary adjustments in order to account for Parchement’s offensive prowess.
Parchment’s ability to produce digs in addition to kills showcases her versatility on both sides of the net as she is able to play a major role in shoring up the NC State defense as well. It will be up to Virginia sophomore middle blocker Mattison Matthews to mitigate Parchment’s impact on the game as she will face off against her throughout the match.
Keys to the Game
Focus the defense around Matthews
In order to win more games, Virginia must pick it up on the defensive end. Currently, the Cavaliers allow the third-most kills per set in the ACC. To buck this trend, Virginia must allow its premier middle blocker to shine and serve as the centerpiece of the defense.
Identified as a player to watch last week, Matthews certainly delivered, averaging 1.25 blocks over two matches this past weekend. Matthews' defensive dominance has led her to the eighth position on the ACC leaderboards in blocks per set. A defensive turnaround for the Cavaliers begins with their best shot blocker.
Close out the close sets
The Cavaliers have struggled to close out sets that come down to the wire, with losses of only two points accounting for 45 percent of their set losses. Lowering this number would play a huge role in securing more wins. However, this is easier said than done. The latest example of this issue is Virginia’s matchup with Virginia Tech, in which all four sets were determined by two points.
Sophomore outside hitter Grace Turner has the potential to be a closer for the Cavaliers as she currently leads the team in points per set and kills per set, acting as the primary offensive option. Her offensive repertoire gives her the ability to help Virginia finish off sets with wins.
First serve is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Memorial Gym Friday. The match will be broadcasted live on ACC Network.