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Virginia volleyball seeks another step forward in 2023-24 season

The Cavaliers aim for continued progress under Coach Shannon Wells in her third year at Virginia

<p>A bolstered roster and further development from returners could give the Cavaliers their first season above .500 since 2015-16.</p>

A bolstered roster and further development from returners could give the Cavaliers their first season above .500 since 2015-16.

After an improved 2022-2023 season, the Virginia volleyball team is pushing closer towards a winning record while continuing to build a unified program under Coach Shannon Wells. Last year’s 12-17 (4-14 ACC) record in Wells’ second campaign with the Cavaliers points towards progress in comparison to the 8-20 (1-17 ACC) record from her first season as head coach. Now, a slew of returners could help catapult the Cavaliers into the middle of the Atlantic Coastal Conference standings.

2022 season recap

The beginning of the fall 2022 season showed signs of promise for Virginia as it won eight of its 11 non-conference games. During conference play, the Cavaliers won one game each against Notre Dame and Florida State and swept their games against rival Virginia Tech. While Virginia did not have much success in the conference beyond these victories, it is important to note that the ACC was a strong league last season, featuring four teams in the NCAA tournament including national runner-up Louisville. 

Returning talent and new contenders in 2023-24

Virginia returns several high performing players this season, including junior middle blocker Abby Tadder — who led the team in blocks last season — junior setter Ashley Le and senior defensive specialist Madison Morey, who led the team in digs. Graduate student middle blocker Veresia Yon led the team in hitting percentage and will look to continue leading alongside Tadder, giving the Cavaliers a potent, experienced duo at the position.

The Cavaliers also bring in some new talent in the form of transfers. Graduate student outside hitter Ciera Hecht from Texas A&M and graduate student setter Regan Trueblood from Illinois Springfield should make an immediate impact at their respective positions. Trueblood ranks at number five on the Prairie Stars all-time assists list with a career total of 1186. Junior defensive specialist Milan Gomillion, who transferred in from Maryland, led her former squad in total digs and ranked sixth in the Big Ten. 

Notable incoming freshmen include Lauryn Bowie, a pin hitter who was the 2022 Under-Armour All American Camp MVP. Defensive specialist Meredith Reeg comes to the Virginia squad with a 2021 state championship under her belt, and middle blocker Nala Cornegy was ranked the number 19 prospect in Virginia by Prep Dig in 2023. Finishing out the 2023 signing class is Lily Gervase, a middle blocker from North Carolina and 2023 PrepVolleyball.com Watch List honoree. 

The Cavaliers appear to be strong in the middle blocker, defensive specialist, and setter positions, but there is a need for depth at the outside and right side hitter positions. Junior outside hitter Brooklyn Borum was fifth in kills in the season, and Virginia will be looking to her for offensive production. Just behind her at sixth was senior pin hitter Chloe Wilson who will also be called upon in the coming season. Senior outside hitter GG Carvacho, who posted a season high in kills and career best .476 hitting percentage against Charlotte last September, will be looking to contribute on the pins as well. 

Schedule outlook

Going into the non-conference slate, the Cavaliers hope to have similar success from last year. None of the first 10 opponents on the Virginia schedule are currently ranked, giving the Cavaliers the perfect opportunity to find their groove before heading into conference play Sept. 22 against North Carolina. Unfortunately for Virginia, games against ranked Georgia Tech, Louisville, and Pittsburgh are scheduled within a 10-day span in October, with two of the three being on the road. Notable games of the 2023-2024 season include the Cavalier Classic on opening weekend and the Big Apple Tournament in September. The conference opener against the Tar Heels will be the first big opportunity for the Cavaliers to prove themselves as ACC contenders. Virginia will also be looking to repeat a season sweep of the Virginia Tech Hokies towards the end of the season. 

Predictions

Even though the Cavaliers were picked 13th in the ACC preseason coaches poll, the upcoming season looks to be promising for Virginia. In order to progress beyond last year’s record, the Cavaliers must win a high number of non-conference games to propel them into the conference slate on a high note. Winning more than four conference games should be possible for Virginia with a bolstered roster and increased chemistry and production from returners. Going into Wells’ third year as head coach, there should be a more cohesive team and staff. While championship contention may remain out of reach for now, things are beginning to look up for Virginia volleyball. 

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