Virginia women’s volleyball snapped its recent losing streak, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Notre Dame in five sets at Memorial Gymnasium. Despite the Fighting Irish (10-14, 4-12 ACC) forcing the match to a 14-14 scoreline in the fifth set, the Cavaliers (10-15, 3-12 ACC) maintained their composure and came out on top, earning their third ACC victory of the season.
The Cavaliers took an early lead thanks to an 8-1 scoring run with four kills and an assist by junior middle back Abby Tadder. However, numerous attack errors allowed the Fighting Irish to close the gap and eventually take the lead, 23-22. The Cavaliers were not phased as they sent over three consecutive kills to regain the lead. The kill by graduate student outside hitter Ciera Hecht sealed the set for Virginia, giving it a 1-0 lead.
The Fighting Irish took an early lead in the second set with an opening ace, strong blocks and critical Virginia attacking errors. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers could not find the rhythm needed for a scoring run, and the Notre Dame defense line stayed intact, handing Virginia six blocks. Virginia’s hitting percentage dipped considerably to 0.042 during the set, due to 11 attack errors. Notre Dame maintained its consistency, which allowed it to maintain the lead for the entire set, and a block by senior middle blocker Lauren Tarnoff tied the match to one set apiece.
Virginia’s offense recalibrated with cleaner hits, making the third set considerably closer. Neither team had considerable momentum and the lead switched frequently. The Cavaliers took a 21-16 lead, but a 5-0 scoring run propelled Notre Dame back into the contest, with the set reaching a point of suspense with a 24-24 scoreline. However, Notre Dame’s Tarnoff and sophomore outside hitter Lucy Trump sent two kills over the net, giving the Fighting Irish a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set was just as highly contested. Both teams’ offenses were firing on all cylinders and they each registered their best hitting percentages of the match. The set, consequently, reached a similar point with the score tied 23-23. However, it was the Cavaliers that leveled up their offense under pressure, as two kills from junior outside hitter Brooklyn Borum and graduate student middle blocker Veresia Yon gave Virginia the set.
Both teams returned kills and kept the scoreline very close, but the Cavaliers went on a 4-1 scoring run to earn a comfortable 13-9 lead in the fifth set. A kill by Yon gave Virginia match point, but Notre Dame wouldn’t back down and saved three match points to tie the set 14-14. Another kill by Yon granted the Cavaliers match point again and an attack error by Notre Dame’s junior setter Phyona Schrader gave Virginia the victory.
The match put on display the determination and heart Virginia possesses in addition to its ability to perform under pressure, something that the program has been trying to develop. While the season has seen a number of heartbreaking conference losses, recent wins against Virginia Tech and now Notre Dame demonstrate the coaching staff’s lack of complacency while facing adversity. Coach Shannon Wells discussed how the Cavaliers’ preparation for closing situations led to a victory Sunday.
“Over the last seven days we worked on how to finish out sets and matches,” Wells said. “To see all that hard work that we put in this week actually come to fruition and give us a win is a really big deal.”
The Cavaliers will return to Memorial Gymnasium this Friday, competing against ACC for Duke to celebrate the team’s Senior Night. The match will begin at 7 p.m. and can be found on ACC Network.