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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia volleyball team will play host to the inaugural Blue vs. Orange scrimmage on Saturday in Memorial Gymnasium. The action is set to begin at 3 p.m., and is free of charge.

The match will feature all of the returning players as well as the incoming freshman class. The Cavaliers will divide into two squads for the scrimmage and then the two teams will compete in a match-like format. Rather than playing a typical “best-of-five” match, the team will play five sets regardless of the outcome of the first four sets, with the first four played to 25 points and the fifth to 15.

The scrimmage will be the first time Virginia will compete in Mem Gym this season, as first-year head coach Lee Maes is preparing the team for its season-opening tournament at James Madison on Friday, Aug. 29.

2008 Cavalier Outlook

Lee Maes is working to adapt Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of the “fierce urgency of now” into the continual growth of the Virginia volleyball program.

“It gives people a sense of what we can immediately do to improve the program on a daily basis,” Maes said. “Our objective every year is to put ourselves in a position to compete for the ACC Championship and earn a postseason berth. Our ultimate vision quest is to make the NCAA Tournament and have a chance to compete for a national championship. This quest will be reflected by believing in now and focusing our daily efforts into being the best we can be with the hope that our diligence and purpose will earn rewards.”

The Cavaliers return 10 letterwinners from a squad that went 18-13 a year ago, and 13-8 in conference play, providing leadership and experience as it heads into the preseason of a new era. Virginia also welcomes four newcomers to aid in the Cavaliers’ quest to reach new heights.

Middle Blockers

Heading the squad of returning players is Shannon Davis. A preseason All-ACC honoree, Davis returns as the team’s top blocker. The fourth-year has emerged as a reliable force both offensively and defensively, as she finished second on the team with 116 blocks last year and third with 284 kills. She tallied double-digit kills in 14 matches, including a career-high 18 in a win at Maryland.

“Shannon is someone we’re looking at to provide leadership and be a role model in terms of how we like to do things in the gym,” Maes said. “She is extremely fast and efficient as an attacker in the front row, but she’s also an obligate teammate. She’s really embraced the type of culture we are cultivating and is engaged in helping herself and others constantly improve. She has made a concerted effort to nurture the young middles that we now have and also help them integrate into the environment and systems of our program.”

Alongside Davis will be second-year Sydney Hill and first-years Hillary Trebels and Tess Udall. Hill returns from an injury-plagued first year to help fill the void of All-American Katie Oakes due to graduation. Hill saw action in 14 matches and tallied five blocks against Arkansas in the home opener.

“Our biggest objective for Sydney is to keep her healthy in order to put her in a position to take advantage of what she has learned throughout the spring,” Maes said. “She has been working to add some stability as a blocker, as well as become a more efficient attacker.”

Trebels and Udall are dynamic and versatile athletes that have the potential to contribute right away.

“Hillary is one of those athletes that’s dynamic, quick and fast with her feet,” Maes said. “She has great explosiveness off of one foot and will have an opportunity to contribute right away because she can compensate for a lot of things physically.

“Tess could also contribute right away because she possesses the skill set that allows her to be versatile anywhere at the net; outside, middle or right side. She’s one of the more developed players coming in as a first-year and has had great training in the past, allowing her to comprehend and adapt quickly to what we are trying to implement.”

Outside Hitters

The Cavaliers will have to fill a big pair of shoes on the outside, due to the graduation of All-American Sarah Kirkwood, one of the finest players in Virginia volleyball history. But preseason All-ACC selection Lauren Dickson will headline a deep corps of outside hitters.

“In assessing the makeup of our team, we have the most depth at the outside hitter positions,” Maes said. “We have a number of returning players who are versatile enough to play left or right side. They each bring a different style of attack and with their skill sets, we are confident in their abilities to pass and defend.”

Dickson missed a portion of last season due to injury, but registered double-digit kills in seven matches, including a season-best 24 against Miami. The third-year notched three double-doubles, collecting a season-high 14 digs twice.

“Lauren’s going to carry quite a big load as a passer and hitter for us,” Maes said. “We feel that she has improved her health and conditioning from last season and we expect her to have a breakout season for us.”

Joining Dickson will be fifth-year Beth Shelton and third-year Tara Hester. Shelton started 14 matches and finished the season with 101 kills. She collected 220 digs in 101 games, and tallied 20 blocks.

“The great thing about Beth is that she’s very versatile,” Maes said. “She brings a lot to the table in regards to experience and has put in a lot of time and effort to give herself an opportunity to have a very good senior season.”

Hester had a breakout season in just her second year. Seeing action in 24 matches, with 10 starts, Hester collected 163 digs to go with 80 kills and 12 service aces. She recorded a career-best 12 kills at Virginia Tech and dug 21 attacks in the match.

“Tara has had a very productive spring,” Maes said. “She has a high volleyball IQ and has done a great job learning and executing our systems. Tara is a player that we look to bring a lot to the court physically.”

First-years Simone Asque and Kelly Rhein will round out the depth at the outside.

“Simone and Kelly are both dynamic athletes that bring something different to the team,” Maes said. “Simone is quick, has a solid foundation and developed skill set, who also jumps very well, while Kelly was a two-sport athlete in high school and is now focusing on volleyball. Kelly is very determined and that is allowing her to continually improve. We look for big things from both Simone and Kelly as they develop.”

Right Side

Adding to the depth of the outside hitters is Kendahl Voelker on the right side. Voelker is the lone Cavalier with right side experience, playing in all 31 matches and earning All-ACC Freshman Team honors from the league following the season.

“Kendahl is coming off a great freshman season where she was honored for her performances,” Maes said. “The biggest thing that she brings to the team is her terminal ability as an attacker. She’s a very physical player, and we are looking to use that to our advantage.”


Competing for setting duties again this year are fourth-year Marlow Bruneau and second-year Kelly Irvin. The duo split time last year, as they each provide different skills to aid in the success of the program.

“Both setters bring wonderful attributes to the team,” Maes said. “From a physical standpoint, Kelly is an athlete with a lot of agility and mobility. That is going to be a positive for us if we are out of system, knowing that she’s the type of athlete who can run balls down and get us back into system. With regards to Marlow, she has developed a nice technical proficiency with her setting. To her advantage, she has size and may be our best blocker at the net.”

Bruneau played in 22 matches, while Irvin was the lone Cavalier to appear in all 121 games. Bruneau finished with 401 assists and hit .250. Irvin dished out 1,061 assists and added 282 digs.


This season’s defense is going to be predicated on discipline. With an efficient block at the net, second-year A.J. Cushman and third-year Brittani Rendina are going to anchor the back row defense in shutting opponents’ offenses down.

“Our defense is going to be relentless and cohesive,” Maes said. “There are two purposes of defense, to stop the other team from scoring and to create offensive opportunities in transition. I feel that we have the type of players who have the mentality and skills to be able to give us one of the best defenses in the country.

“With that, we expect both A.J. and Brittani to be on the court for us. They are both going to impact the team with their passing and digging abilities. Every time they touch the ball, good things happen. They have an aggressive attack mentality and they want the ball. They are wonderful examples of how hard we have to work to be successful.”

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