Women's Volleyball Excels Both On and Off the Court
March 16, 1999
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The 1998 University of Virginia volleyball team recorded one of the finest volleyball seasons in school history this past year. After jumping out to an 11-1 start to begin the season, the Cavaliers excelled throughout the remainder of the year en route to a 26-8 record overall, including a 12-4 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference, good for second place in the conference. Under the direction of head coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton and assistant coach Kelly Sheffield, Virginia won 26 of its 34 matches, won two pre-season tournaments (Pepperdine and Jefferson Cup), finished second in the regular season conference standings, advanced to the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament as the number two seed and made its first ever appearance in the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship after gathering an at-large bid.
Virginia’s 26 victories ranks as the second highest win total in a single season at Virginia, and was the most wins by a volleyball team at UVa in a season during the 1990’s. The Cavaliers 12 ACC victories set a new school record for the most conference wins in a season, shattering the previous high of seven wins set by the 1996 squad. All of these accomplishments came from a team picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches poll in the ACC.
The Cavaliers also proved that not only did they look good on the court last season, they also looked good on paper. When the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) release its final 1998 Rating Percentage Index (RPI) standings, Virginia finished exactly where it did on the court, right near the top of the country.
UVa finished ranked 23 out of 297 teams in the country in the 1998 NCAA RPI rankings. Aside from being one of the highest ranked teams in the nation according to the poll, the Atlantic Coast Conference finished a strong third place out of the 30 other conferences rated in the country in the conference rankings as well. The ACC was behind only the Big Ten and Big 12 Conferences.
Here is a look at where UVa finished against teams ranked in the RPI standings:
Team Ranking Virginia's Record 1-25 3-4 26-50 2-1 51-100 8-3 101-150 6-0 Top 100 13-8 Top 150 19-8 Below 150 7-0
Although figures such as rankings and statistics are interpreted differently by some, Virginia proved through its play on the court that it was one of the top teams in the country. The NCAA also took notice to UVa’s achievements, and on November 29, 1998, the Virginia volleyball team realized it was heading to a place that no other Cavalier volleyball squad in the history of the UVa program had ever gone…….to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament. Virginia received an at-large bid to participate in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. It marked the schools first ever appearance in the NCAA’s in the 19-year history of the program.
In Virginia’s first round match with UCLA in the Thunderdome on the campus of UC Santa Barbara, the Cavaliers fell to the Bruins 3-1. Although Virginia lost the match, the successful season and NCAA Tournament appearance have already added confidence to the team peaking forward to next season. With all but three players returning next season from last years squad, the Cavaliers will look to build upon their successful 1998 campaign.
Aside from the lofty rankings, several members of the team were honored and recognized for their achievements last season. Head coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton was named the 1998 Coach of the Year and Jessica Parsons was named the Player of the Year by the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID). Parsons was also selected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVAC) All-District Team, named to the ACC All-Tournament Team, earned First Team All-ACC honors, gathered the ACC Player of the Week award on 11/16 and was selected to the All-Tournament team as the Most Valuable Player in both the Pepperdine Tournament and Jefferson Cup Tournament. With one year of eligibility remaining, she already ranks in the top ten in 19 different statistical categories at Virginia.
Claire Folga joined Parsons on the AVAC All-District Team. She was also a Second Team All-ACC selection and was named the ACC Player of the Week on October 5th. She finishes her volleyball career at Virginia ranked fourth with 1049 career kills fifth with 988 career digs. Mary Frances Scott became Virginia’s all-time assist leader on September 4th, 1998 after she broke previous record holder Lisa Flower’s mark of 3,071. Scott has now gathered 4,562 career assists. She was selected to the VaSID All-State volleyball team and earned All-Tournament honors in the Navy Trident Classic, the Pepperdine Tournament and the Jefferson Cup Tournament. Scott ranks in the top ten in 12 statistical categories at Virginia.
UVa’s Amanda Wells gathered All-ACC Second Team honors and finished her career with 475 career assists which places her tenth all-time at UVa. Andrea Fischer was named to the All-Tournament team in the Pepperdine Tournament and Deanna Zwarich was selected to the Jefferson Cup Tournament. Aside from those who were individually honored this past season, each one of the players on the 1998 squad had a significant role in the Cavaliers success.
With the 1999 season edging its way around the corner with the turn of the new year, you can count on it that the ’99 Cavaliers will be looking to following in the ’98 teams footprints, and taking another step forward in Virginia’s quest to the top of the volleyball world. The Cavaliers have already made their impression on the volleyball map, now its a matter of making that impression a lasting and reoccurring one.