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Volleyball rallies against Akron, falls to Winthrop over the weekend

Cavaliers win a five-set match against Zips, lose to the Eagles

<p>Freshman outside hitter Brooklyn Borum was key in the team's win against Akron, as she recorded some crucial kills.</p>

Freshman outside hitter Brooklyn Borum was key in the team's win against Akron, as she recorded some crucial kills.

Virginia volleyball opened its home season against Akron and Winthrop this past weekend, topping Akron in a five-set thriller but falling to Winthrop in straight sets. 

Win against Akron

The Cavaliers (3-2, 0-0 ACC) defeated the Zips (4-2, 0-0 MAC) in a back-and-forth game that had Memorial Gym rocking on Friday night. 

After losing the first set 16-25, Virginia battled back and won the second 25-22. Akron took the third set 25-22, but the Cavaliers won the fourth set 25-17, forcing a fifth set which the Cavaliers won 15-13 to clinch the match.

Play was high stakes throughout most of the match. While the Zips held the Cavaliers to a .139 hitting percentage, the Cavaliers had great block defense. Virginia outblocked Akron 14-6, proving to be a key difference maker in the outcome of the match.

Senior outside hitter Grace Turner was once again dominant for the Cavaliers, leading the team with 17 kills. Meanwhile, graduate hitter Alexis Adleta led the Zips with 13 kills.

A key substitute in the fifth set proved to seal the game for the Cavaliers. Coach Shannon Wells put freshman outside hitter Brooklyn Borum back in at 12-12 in the set. Borum got a kill on the next point, putting the Cavaliers up 13-12. The Cavaliers went on to win the next two points, winning the set and the match.

The matchup between the Cavaliers and Zips was Wells’ first victory at home for Virginia.

Loss against Winthrop

In the second matchup of the weekend, Virginia faced off against Winthrop. The Eagles (3-3, 0-0 Big South) overwhelmed the Cavaliers in straight sets behind strong matches from fifth year outside hitter Nikkia Benitez and senior middle blocker Lily Leistiko. 

In the first set, Virginia fell behind early before rallying to tie the game at 6-6. However, Leistko and Benitez caught fire as Winthrop put away seven of the next eight points. The Cavaliers fell behind by as much as ten and lost the set 25-18.

Virginia jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the second thanks to strong kills by Turner and sophomore outside hitter Mary Shaffer, but trailed 11-12 by the middle of the set and succumbed to another 7-1 run by the Eagles and could not claw their way back in, losing the set 26-20.

With their backs against the wall in the final set, the Cavaliers again kept it close early, and again they were demoralized by a long run heavily involving Benitez and Liestko, going down 17-8 thanks in part to three consecutive reception errors. There was a brief spark of hope as the Cavaliers rallied to go on a long run of their own to bring the game within three, but the flame never lit and Virginia only scored twice more to lose the set 25-18. This victory was Winthrop’s first over an ACC team since they topped Wake Forest 3-1 in 2014, and it further extended the Eagles’ winning streak to three games. 

Virginia’s Walker and Shaffer were both named to the all-tournament team as middle-blockers and right side hitters, respectively. 

The Cavaliers travel to Richmond for the VCU Invitational this weekend, facing off against VCU Friday at 4 p.m. and No. 6 Ohio State Saturday at 2 p.m.