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ANDERSON: Five takeaways from Virginia Athletics for the week of Feb. 1

It was another excellent week for the Cavaliers across all sports

<p>Both the men's and women's swimming teams are nationally ranked, with members of both squads beating personal and conference records left and right.</p>

Both the men's and women's swimming teams are nationally ranked, with members of both squads beating personal and conference records left and right.

Virginia sports continued its run of solid performances into February, as four different teams won matches over the weekend. Men’s basketball won both of its games, and swimming and diving and track and field both had solid showings. Here are five takeaways from another successful week in Virginia Athletics.

Trey Murphy is having an excellent season

Mere days before Virginia basketball’s season opener against Towson, it was announced that junior guard Trey Murphy, a transfer from Rice, would be eligible for the season — providing a jolt of excitement to the Cavalier fanbase. Murphy wasted no time impressing the Virginia faithful with an outstanding performance against the Tigers, making six three-pointers and 21 total points. There have been some ups and downs throughout the season, but he dialed in another impressive outing in a win against NC State. In an otherwise sloppy showing by the Cavaliers, Murphy was a bright spot — scoring 18 points on just eight shots. It is truly remarkable to watch a player in his first year in Coach Tony Bennett’s system perform so well, and Murphy is a prime example of that. He has been a sharpshooter since the moment he stepped on the court, and his defense has also improved tremendously over the season, especially on the ball. Virginia is lucky to have Murphy eligible for this season, as he is yet another offensive cog for the Cavaliers to work with.

Men’s basketball needs to avoid the second half struggle

Virginia men’s basketball came out of Saturday’s matchup against Pittsburgh with a hard-fought 73-66 victory — but what was more impressive was the team’s overall play in the second half. Over the past two games, Virginia tended to lose control in the final 20 minutes. Virginia Tech was able to blow the game wide open en route to a 65-51 loss for the Cavaliers, and NC State also kept it close throughout the second half, drawing nearly even in the period. The game against the Panthers, however, was quite different. Virginia had one of its trademark runs early in the second half, with senior guard Tomas Woldetensae, senior forward Jay Huff and senior forward Sam Hauser exploding offensively to push the lead to 16. In addition, Hauser did a particularly great job defensively on Pittsburgh’s sophomore forward Justin Champagnie, holding the ACC’s leading scorer to a mediocre game by his standards. The Panthers were able to make the game closer by way of a defensive press, but the Cavaliers were never in serious danger. If Virginia can play like it did in the second half on Saturday, the Cavaliers can likely beat any team in the conference.

The youth of men’s lacrosse gives the team a bright future — and present

In the season opener for both teams, Virginia men’s lacrosse crushed Towson 20-11 thanks to an excellent middle two quarters. The offensive explosiveness seen in last year’s team seemed to continue for the sixth-ranked Cavaliers, as they played an extremely fast-paced game — rarely using the entire time on the shot clock. What provided a particularly optimistic feel for the season, however, was the play of the younger members of the team. Redshirt freshman attack Connor Shellenberger and sophomore attack Payton Cormier erupted offensively, each finishing with seven points on the day. Shellenberger’s play was particularly exciting for Virginia, since he came in last year as the No. 1 recruit in the country before redshirting. Cormier, while not nearly as highly regarded coming out of high school, had shown flashes of promise in previous seasons before exploding for six goals against the Tigers. The offensive core for the traditionally high-scoring Cavaliers seems to be set up incredibly well for both this year and the future.

This will be a year of records for women’s swimming

In their final tune-up before ACC Championships, men’s and women’s swimming both competed at the Cavalier Invite Feb. 5-7. The women’s team had an excellent night in particular, setting both personal and school records across the weekend. The most impressive event of the invite had to be the 200-yard breaststroke, where sophomore Kate Douglass set a both a school record and the fifth-fastest time in ACC history in the preliminary swim. If that was not enough of a sign of a great meet overall, then the four other athletes — junior Julia Menkhaus, sophomore Ella Collins, senior Caroline Gmelich and freshman Riley Tilltmann — who all set personal records across the weekend should be convincing. Overall, the second-ranked Cavaliers won seven events at the Cavalier Invite, which should provide Virginia women’s swimming with a lot of confidence heading into the conference championships.

Men’s swimming’s dominance in events can mean nothing but good things

The women’s team was not the only group of Cavaliers that had an incredible weekend at the Cavalier Invite — the men’s team also clocked in a fantastic performance. But while the strength for the women’s team lied in setting personal records, the men’s team’s forte in the invite was supremacy across multiple events. The No. 10 Cavaliers swept the podium in three different events, while also taking the top two spots in three others. Freshman Tanner Herring had a particularly spectacular weekend, winning the 1,650-yard freestyle and finishing third in two other events. Much like the women’s team, the men’s team has to be happy with how their final tune-up went before the ACC Championships.

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