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Virginia volleyball starts the season off strong at the Maryland Invitational

The Cavaliers took two of three games

<p>Graduate middle blocker Alana Walker is already making her impact known on the team.</p>

Graduate middle blocker Alana Walker is already making her impact known on the team.

Led by Coach Shannon Wells, Virginia traveled to the Maryland Invitational this past weekend, losing its opener against Maryland but bouncing back with two wins against Hofstra and Central Connecticut State.

The Cavaliers (2-1, 0-0 ACC) opened the season facing off against the Terrapins (3-0, 0-0 B1G) for the first time since 2013 when Maryland was a member of the ACC. 

Maryland won 3-1, grabbing the first set 25-21 and fending off a stingy Virginia effort that evened the match at one set apiece after the Cavaliers won the second set 25-23. The Terrapins hung on to win the third and fourth sets 25-19 and 25-22, respectively.

Young faces led the Cavaliers in a great outing. Freshman setter Ashley Le led the team with 19 assists and was just one dig short of a double-double in her first career match as a Cavalier. Meanwhile, sophomore right side hitter Mary Shaffer recorded nine kills on 27 total swings. Shaffer appeared in just two games during her freshman year.

Maryland dominated the game through hitting, averaging .209 to Virginia’s .155. That, combined with outblocking the Cavaliers 12-7 helped the Terrapins take the win. Senior middle blocker Rainelle Jones had nine of the 12 blocks for Maryland.

Looking to shake off their first defeat of the year, the Cavaliers blanked Hofstra 3-0 to improve to 1-1 on the season. The Pride (1-2, 0-0 CAA) struggled to return Cavalier serves, surrendering 10 service aces — half of which came from senior outside hitter Grace Turner. 

Turner also hit .222, had 11 kills, five digs and two blocks in an impressive all-around game.

The Cavaliers won the first two sets convincingly, 25-14 and 25-16, before grinding out a close third set to sweep the match. This was Coach Shannon Wells’ first victory at the helm for the Cavaliers. 

The Pride had a five-point lead at 14-9 in the third set and again a 20-17 lead, but the Cavaliers found a way to seal the deal, putting the Pride away 25-22. 

In Virginia’s third and final contest of the tournament, it defeated Central Connecticut State 3-1. The Blue Devils (0-3) hung tight with the Cavaliers through most sets. Virginia won the first, second and fourth sets 25-23, 25-21 and 25-20, while the Blue Devils won the third 27-25.

Graduate middle blocker Alana Walker, Shaffer and Turner each recorded 11 kills throughout the match. The Cavaliers came up with clutch points down the stretch in each set, breaking a 22-22 tie in the first, holding on in the second after leading 18-12 and going on a 7-0 run in the middle of the fourth.

Two Cavaliers, Shaffer and Turner, were named to the All-Tournament Team. Turner averaged team-high 3.27 kills per set, 0.82 service aces per set and 0.91 blocks per set. Meanwhile, Shaffer had 28 kills and was second on the team in points with 33, behind Turner who had 51.

The Cavaliers will continue their regular season with two home games this weekend. On Friday, Virginia will face off against Akron at 7 p.m., and on Saturday, the team will play Winthrop at 2 p.m. Both games will be played at Memorial Gymnasium in Charlottesville and streamed live on ACCNX.

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