Virginia will travel to Blacksburg Friday afternoon to play Virginia Tech for its second conference game of the season. The Cavaliers (1-1, 0-1 ACC) are still looking for their first conference win of the season, while the Hokies (2-1, 1-1 ACC) hope to extend their winning streak of one game.
Virginia hasn’t played since its loss to Duke Oct. 2 after three straight games were postponed due to COVID-19 issues, including positive tests and contact tracing. After a 14-day hiatus, the Cavaliers will need to shake off the rust quickly to compete with the Hokies.
This is the first game between the two teams this season. Virginia has won its past three matchups against Virginia Tech, with its last loss coming in 2018. The game is bound to be a competitive one with both teams looking to make up ground in the ACC.
Players to watch
Sophomore middle blocker Mattison Matthews
The South Carolina native will look to get back to her dominant ways against the Hokies. After setting the Virginia freshman hitting record the previous season, Matthews is averaging a block per set, which leads the team after two matches.
Matthews’s defensive ability will play a key role in slowing down a Virginia Tech offensive, which is coming off a game in which they recorded their highest point total of the season. Look for Matthews to set the defensive tone early and often with crucial blocks while also producing on the offensive end.
Virginia Tech outside hitter Kaity Smith
Smith is off to a hot start this season, leading the Hokies in kills per set as well as ranking second on her team in points per set. Smith’s versatility offensively will be something the Cavaliers must keep in mind in order to limit her impact on the game.
Smith’s ability extends past just the offensive side of the net, as she has been a force defensively as well. Smith’s defensive ability prevents her from being picked on, allowing her to play in any situation of the game regardless of the score. Matthews will likely get a fair share of reps facing off against Smith and must work to slow her down.
Keys to the Game
Work around Virginia Tech senior middle blocker Marisa Cerchio
The Cavaliers will be forced to play against Cerchio, one of the elite shot blockers in the ACC, when facing the Hokies. Cerchio has anchored the Virginia Tech defense early this season, averaging over a block per set. The Virginia offense will have to get creative in order to account for Cerchio and her prowess on the defensive end of the net.
Feed sophomore outside hitter Grace Turner
After returning from a season-ending injury and missing the season opener, Turner was excellent in her return to the court. Turner recorded a team high in kills, blocks and aces against Duke. The Cavaliers should allow her to continue her white-hot run and give her consistent looks offensively throughout the game. Turner’s athletic ability coupled with her long frame allow her to make plays over the net with ease.
First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m at Cassell Coliseum Friday. The match will be broadcasted live on ACC Network Extra.