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Virginia volleyball has rough week, falls to Pittsburgh and Duke

The Cavaliers failed to win a set against two strong ACC foes

<p>After its loss to Pittsburgh, Virginia is 0-8 in matches against teams ranked in the top five.</p>

After its loss to Pittsburgh, Virginia is 0-8 in matches against teams ranked in the top five.

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At No. 2 Pittsburgh, Friday

Virginia entered Fitzgerald Fieldhouse Friday as heavy underdogs against undefeated No. 2 Pittsburgh, looking for its first win since Nov. 2015.

The first four points of the match went to the Panthers (14-0, 4-0 ACC) as the Cavaliers (8-6, 1-3 ACC) struggled out of the gate. They continued to play subpar volleyball through most of the set, eventually finding themselves down 13-18 before valiantly fighting back and pulling within a point, forcing Pittsburgh to call for time. Out of the timeout, though, Pittsburgh dominated, putting away 6 of the final 7 points and winning the set 25-19.

Nonetheless, the Cavaliers looked flat in the second set. The Panthers took full advantage, going on separate 8-0 and 6-0 runs and one point owning a 20-7 lead. Virginia would rally a little to make the final score a respectable 25-15, but the Cavaliers only managed five kills the whole set while committing six errors. 

Errors continued to sink Virginia in the third set, with four of Pittsburgh’s first five points coming off of Cavalier mistakes. The Panthers again opened a large lead of 23-13 thanks to a 5-0 run in the latter stages of the set and finished off a 25-15 victory with two kills to win the match. 

Junior middle blocker Serena Gray led the way for Pittsburgh, leading the team in kills and blocks with nine and four, respectively, and the Panthers took advantage of a weak Virginia return game by dropping seven aces. Senior outside hitter Grace Turner registered a team high seven kills for the Cavaliers.

Duke, Sunday

The Cavaliers returned home to Charlottesville to take on Duke Sunday afternoon in Coach Shannon Wells’ first home ACC match. Like Pittsburgh, this matchup against the Blue Devils  (11-4, 2-2 ACC) would prove to be short but not very sweet for Virginia. 

Virginia continued the theme of error streaks, making mistakes on their first three serves of the game. Despite those errors, the Cavaliers still led Duke 9-7 early before a big run gave the Blue Devils an 18-11 lead they would never relinquish. Duke ended the set on two straight kills to win 25-17.

Set two was a tighter affair, with both teams going back and forth before Virginia established an authoritative 20-16 lead. However, the Blue Devils stormed back with a 5-0 run and took a 23-21 lead. Virginia came back thanks to a stellar block and kill from graduate student middle blocker Alana Walker, but Duke once again closed out the set with back to back kills for a 25-23 victory and a 2-0 lead. 

The third set was also a closely run affair with neither team able to manage a lead larger than four points until Duke opened up a late 22-18 lead. Once again, the Cavaliers were unable to win late points when they mattered most, and fell 25-20 to end the match and the week without winning a set. 

Freshman outside hitter Brooklyn Borum led Virginia with nine kills, four of which were posted in the final set, and Alana Walker picked up for blocks in the loss. Duke’s senior outside hitter Ade Owokuniran registered a team leading nine kills and senior setter Alex Springfield posted a match-high 25 assists, nearly double the next highest of any other participant. 

Virginia returns to competition at home Friday against No. 18 Georgia Tech at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon against Clemson at 3 p.m. Both matches will be played at Memorial Gymnasium and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.