CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The Virginia volleyball team fell behind 2-0 against in-state rival Virginia Commonwealth on Friday evening at the Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup, but didn’t falter as the squad rallied to win the next three sets and claim the match, 3-2 (24-26, 19-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-9), handing VCU its first loss of the season. With the win, the Cavaliers improved to 3-2 on the year.
“This match was really typical of many matches throughout the country at this point in the season,” head coach Lee Maes said. “The team that can win the serve and pass battle will typically be more successful. That was evident tonight with our passing struggling in the first two sets, which allowed VCU to be in rhythm offensively and very difficult to stop.
“We made some adjustments for the third, fourth and fifth sets that allowed us to settle down a bit more with our passing, but it also gave us other offensive options for when we were out of system.”
Sophomore Simone Asque and senior Lauren Dickson once again led the Cavaliers on the front line. The duo each registered double-doubles with Asque landing a team-high 18 kills to go with 10 digs. Dickson, notching her first double-double of the season and 21st of her career, knocked down 17 kills and collected 12 digs.
Freshman Rachel Gray also had a double-double, the first of her career, dishing out a personal-best 40 assists and digging 13 attacks.
Defensively, freshman Jess O’Shoney posted a career-best six blocks, while junior AJ Cushman led the team with 14 digs and senior Brittani Rendina contributed 10. Junior Kendahl Voelker had nine kills and five blocks for the Cavaliers.
“Kendahl in particular came in during the third set and responded really well,” Maes said. “I thought Lauren Dickson was our stabilizing force, not only for tonight but in our match earlier today versus NC Central, and Rachel Gray did a really nice job for us. She’s been distributing the ball well and making positive things happen when she’s running around the court.”
The first set was a tight one, tallying 10 tied scores between the Rams and the Cavaliers. After working the score to 21 all, the teams alternated the next six points, leaving them deadlocked at 24. The Rams ultimately took the frame in extra points, 26-24.
In the second frame, VCU took a 12-7 lead after a five-point run and never looked back. The two teams alternated scores for the rest of the set, but the Rams held on to win 25-19.
Virginia took an early lead in the third set, capitalizing on three kills and a block to go up 6-0. The Cavaliers stretched the lead to 10, forcing a VCU timeout. The Rams pulled within three points late in the frame, but Virginia held on to win, 25-20.
The fourth set mirrored the tension of the first, featuring 12 tie scores and five lead changes. After the score was evened at 22, the Cavaliers took three of the last four points to win the frame 25-23 and force a decisive fifth set.
Virginia rolled to a 4-0 lead in the fifth and never looked back. Three Cavaliers nabbed a pair of kills each late in the frame, lifting the team to a 15-9 victory and a 3-2 match win.
For VCU, Lenka Melicharkova posted a triple-double, dishing out 41 assists, landing 11 kills and collecting 14 digs. Mariel Frey led all players with 21 kills and Alyssa Foster had a match-high 17 digs.
“What a wonderful night to watch great volleyball action with a huge crowd,” Maes said. “The crowd witnessed some exciting action in Mem Gym tonight and we’re thankful and appreciative of their continued support. We expect that they’ll give us that same level of support all season. Our crowd is a difference maker.”
The Cavaliers will return to action in Memorial Gymnasium tomorrow, Saturday, to conclude the Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup with a contest against Campbell at 3 p.m.
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