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Virginia volleyball splits pair of matches against Charlotte

The Cavaliers were unable to sweep the 49ers in a home series

<p>The Cavaliers competed hard this weekend, playing a total of 10 sets in two matches against Charlotte.</p>

The Cavaliers competed hard this weekend, playing a total of 10 sets in two matches against Charlotte.

The Virginia volleyball team returned to Memorial Gymnasium over the weekend for their home-opening series with Charlotte. In a pair of highly competitive matches Friday and Saturday that each went to a fifth set, the Cavaliers (6-2, 0-0 ACC) split the two contests with the 49ers (6-4, 0-0 C-USA).

Virginia opened their home slate Friday evening with a marathon of a match that resulted in a 3-2 victory.

The Cavaliers took the early advantage with a 25-22 win in the first set. After Virginia took the lead at 6-5, the 49ers never again led in the set, but kept within a few points for the duration of the segment. 

Senior middle blocker Mattison Matthews led the Cavaliers with four kills in the first set, while graduate setter Gabby Easton facilitated play with seven assists.

The second set — which ended in a 25-21 win for Virginia — followed a very similar script. The Cavaliers again pulled ahead early and maintained a marginal lead for most of the set despite never gaining significant separation.

Graduate outside hitter Grace Turner got things going in the second set for Virginia, recording eight kills to go along with six digs. Sophomore setter Ashley Le led the Cavaliers in the second set with eight assists, as Virginia posted an efficient .333 hitting percentage.

Facing a 2-0 deficit in the match, Charlotte found themselves down 11-7 in the third set before going on an extended 14-5 to turn the tide and extend the match to a fourth set.

In a nail-biting fourth set in which neither team led by more than three points, the Cavaliers found themselves clinging to a late 23-22 lead with a chance to put the 49ers away. The Charlotte comeback continued, however, as they capitalized off several Virginia mistakes to score the set’s final three points and force a fifth set.

In the decisive finale, the Cavaliers finally put an end to the 49ers’ comeback efforts with a 16-14 win to seal the 3-2 victory. Turner again ignited Virginia’s offensive attack, posting a set-high five kills.

In another long five-set match Saturday afternoon, the Cavaliers were unable to complete the weekend sweep of Charlotte.

In a reversal of Friday’s action, it was the 49ers who claimed wins in each of the match’s first two sets Saturday. Charlotte pulled ahead early in the first set and never turned back, cruising to a 25-15 win. The 49ers again led throughout most of the second set and earned the 25-20 win, but Virginia showed some signs of life late in the set and gained much needed momentum.

The Cavaliers carried this momentum into the third set, where they kickstarted their attempt at a comeback. Led by eight kills from Turner, Virginia methodically built a sizable lead in the third set as they rolled to a 25-17 win.

The Cavaliers’ comeback continued into the fourth set as they earned a wire-to-wire win to force a fifth set. Charlotte made things close toward the end of the set, clawing to within two points at 19-17, 20-18, and 23-21, but Virginia never relinquished their advantage.

The comeback would stop there for the Cavaliers, however, as the 49ers pulled ahead late in the fifth set and wrapped up the match 3-2. 

Despite the loss, Saturday’s final set contained perhaps the highlight of the year for Virginia. With the score tied 8-8, a spike by junior hitter GG Carvacho was blocked at the net, sending the ball ricocheting toward the Cavaliers’ endline. With an effort that earned her a spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays segment, junior libero Madison Morey tracked the ball down, dove, and managed to send it back over the net with one hand for a Virginia point.

The Cavaliers continue their homestand this weekend with a trio of non-conference matchups against East Carolina, Mercer and Maryland. The first game against the Pirates will begin Friday at 12:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on ACC Network Extra.