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Virginia volleyball begins conference play with back-to-back losses at UNC and Duke

The Cavaliers struggled offensively against two ACC powerhouses on the road

<p>Junior setter Ashley Le had a strong weekend, recording a double-double of digs and assists in each game.</p>

Junior setter Ashley Le had a strong weekend, recording a double-double of digs and assists in each game.

Virginia volleyball traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face off against North Carolina Friday, before facing Duke in Durham, N.C. Sunday. Despite optimism running high after a productive non-conference portion of the season, the Cavaliers (7-5, 0-2 ACC) lost in straight sets to both the Tar Heels (7-4, 1-1 ACC) and Blue Devils (10-3, 1-1 ACC) in a rude welcome to the ACC.

Match 1 — Virginia 0, UNC 3

The first set saw a back-and-forth between the Tar Heels and the Cavaliers, which remained tight throughout the set. Virginia was able to pull within one, making the score 18-19, before the home team pulled away, scoring six of the next nine points. North Carolina took the first set 25-21, but graduate middle blocker Veresia Yon stood out offensively throughout the first set, notching three kills on four attempts and putting up three blocks. 

The second set was a different story, with the Tar Heels pulling away early with a 9-3 run. North Carolina maintained a steady lead throughout the set, taking the second set 25-18. The Cavaliers fell flat offensively, only notching 8 kills and hitting -.028 collectively.

The third set saw the Cavaliers push back, with the Tar Heels forced to make tactical changes to slow Virginia’s offense. The Cavaliers managed to gain a 23-22 lead, only for a strategic timeout by North Carolina to disrupt the offensive momentum. Out of the timeout, the Tar Heels went on a three-point run to win the game, 25-23. Junior middle blocker Abby Tadder contributed significantly with four kills on eight swings, as well as two blocks. 

“Unfortunately, we had way too many errors,” Coach Shannon Wells said in a post-game press conference. “When you play a great team like North Carolina and put yourself in that kind of situation it’s going to make for a really long night.”

Match 2 — Virginia 0, Duke 3

In the final leg of the road trip, the Cavaliers were not able to turn around their offense, hitting only .029 while the Blue Devils hit .231. They also did not score a single service ace, while Duke notched four throughout the match. This poor offensive showing led to a decisive victory for the Blue Devils.

The first set saw a strong initial run by Duke, leading 8-5 early in the set. This lead continued throughout the set, with the Blue Devils leading by as many as 12 points. The Cavaliers struggled to match Duke’s strong offense, hitting just .091 while the Blue Devils hit .522. Yon continued to be a bright spot on a dark weekend, notching three kills on four attempts, accounting for much of Virginia’s successful offensive attempts. 

Virginia was able to find their footing in the second set, not allowing Duke to pull too far ahead. The Cavaliers gained some offensive momentum late in the set and pulled with one, 20-21. The Blue Devils responded by going on a 4-1 run to decide the set. Tadder notched three kills and a solo block.

The third set saw an optimistic start, with the Cavaliers matching Duke point by point, eventually pulling even with them at 17-17. The Blue Devils responded in the deciding set, however,  scoring seven unanswered points and going on an 8-1 run down the stretch to decide the match.

Despite a lackluster offensive showing, defensive players demonstrated their consistency throughout the weekend. Junior setter Ashley Le achieved a double-double in both games, her fifth and sixth of the season, with 12 digs and 24 assists against the Tar Heels and 19 assists alongside 12 digs against Duke. Junior libero Milan Gomillion was second in digs against North Carolina, notching 11 digs throughout the match. 

The Cavaliers will return to Memorial Gymnasium to host Syracuse Friday.The first point is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and the match will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra (ACCNX).

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