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Volleyball picks up two wins before falling to No. 15 Florida at the Gators Invitational

The Cavaliers showed promise but still need to prove themselves against top opponents

Virginia volleyball began its regular season schedule by taking part in the Gators Invitational in Gainesville, Fla. on Friday and Saturday. The Cavaliers (2-1, 0-0 ACC) earned victories in their first two matches against East Tennessee State and North Florida, respectively, before falling to No. 15 Florida in their final match of the event Saturday evening.

Virginia’s 2022 campaign began on a high note Friday afternoon at the O’Connell Center with a 3-1 victory over East Tennessee State (0-3, 0-0 SoCon).

The Cavaliers kept the Buccaneers at arm’s length throughout the first set, leading by as many as seven and ultimately winning the set 25-21. Sophomore middle blocker Abby Tadder posted six kills and one ace in the first set to help the Cavaliers take the 1-0 lead.

The second and third sets were more lopsided, with Virginia and East Tennessee State trading 25-14 in the second set and 25-15 in the third set. Junior outside hitter Chloe Wilson made her presence known during the second set of her Cavalier debut with five kills.

In a tightly contested fourth set, the Cavaliers clinched the match with a 25-21 win. Tadder had another strong set and graduate student outside hitter Grace Turner’s consecutive kills sealed the victory for Virginia.

The Cavaliers returned to the O’Connell Center Saturday morning for a match with North Florida (1-2, 0-0 ASUN).

After facing an 18-13 deficit in a nail-biting first set, Virginia battled back to claim the 25-23 win. Senior outside hitter Jayna Francis, who led the Cavaliers with 13 kills in the match, had two key kills down the stretch to help flip the first set in favor of Virginia.

The Cavaliers got off to another slow start in set two, trailing 20-14 before ripping off nine consecutive points to turn the tide. Turner’s three aces in the set helped Virginia come back and grab a 2-0 lead.

In yet another tight set, the Cavaliers again managed to come out on top and complete the 3-0 sweep of the Ospreys.

Virginia faced a tough test Saturday evening in the form of the highly ranked Gators (3-0, 0-0 SEC).

The Cavaliers struggled to stay competitive in the match’s first two sets, quickly falling into early deficits both times before falling 25-11 and 25-7, respectively. Virginia refused to quit, however, keeping it close with Florida for much of the third set before the Gators pulled away for the 25-18 win.

Junior outside hitter Mary Shaffer led the Cavaliers with six kills in the match, but the Gators were just too much to handle. Florida out-hit Virginia .521 to .141 and led significantly in kills, aces, and assists.

Francis and Tadder were no doubt bright spots in the Cavaliers’ opening weekend of matches and both earned spots on the All-Tournament team. Virginia showed steps in the right direction with two solid wins and a close match against Florida in the final set, but the Cavaliers will need to show improvement if they are to compete at a high level in an incredibly strong ACC.

Virginia will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio next weekend for a set of matches against Xavier, Purdue Fort Wayne and Eastern Michigan as part of the Xavier Tournament.

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