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HARRISONBURG, Va. The Virginia volleyball team opened it’s season with a sweep of the JMU Days Inn Invitational to claim the tournament title. Led by MVP Lauren Dickson (Austin, Texas), the Cavaliers defeated Murray State and New Hampshire, 3-0, before defeating host James Madison, 3-1 (29-27, 21-25, 25-19, 25-16), for the championship. Marlow Bruneau (Lakeville, Minn.) and Shannon Davis (Austin, Texas) joined Dickson on the all-tournament team.

“This is a great start to the season,” head coach Lee Maes said. “We’re happy that we competed very well all weekend, that was something that was evident in our play. We responded well in making good adjustments through each of the matches and then in we regained our focus on what our game plan was after dropping our first set. The key now is that we know what to do, we just need to do what we know.”

Against JMU, the Cavaliers were led by fifth-year Beth Shelton’s (Cincinnati, Ohio) career-high 19 kills, while second-year Kendahl Voelker (Fort Myers, Fla.) knocked down 10 kills to join Shelton in double-figures.

Defensively, the Cavaliers were led by second-year Brittani Rendina’s (Lisle, Ill.) career-high 18 digs and Bruneau dished out 36 assists.

For James Madison, Kelsey McNamara landed a team-high 14 kills, while Lindsay Callahan and Michelle Johnson contributed 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Defensively, Callahan collected 12 digs and Lauren Miles dished out a match-high 44 assists.

“I think JMU had a little bit of fatigue from the five-set match that they had earlier in the day,” head coach Lee Maes said. “But they played extremely hard and they put a lot of pressure on us to go out there and handle the ball very well, especially with how many jump servers they have. It was good that we responded though, because they definitely weren’t giving it to us.”

With the score knotted at 24 apiece in the opening set, James Madison landed a kill to earn the first set point of the match, but an attack error called on the Dukes evened the score at 25 all. A ball handling error on JMU gave Virginia its first set point opportunity, but the Dukes landed another kill to make it 26-26. The two squads traded kills again before a kill from Voelker and a block from Bruneau and Davis put Virginia up 29-27 for the win.

James Madison strung together a 7-3 run midway through the second frame to take a 19-13 lead. The Cavaliers cut JMU’s lead to two by 20-18 and proceeded to trade points to keep within two at 22-20, but a 3-1 run of the Dukes’ put the set out of reach for Virginia, handing the Cavaliers their first set loss of the season, at 25-21.

The Cavaliers rallied for four straight points late in the third set to take a 22-17 lead and force a timeout upon JMU. The Dukes responded with a kill and block, but Virginia went on to score the final three points of the frame for a 25-19 victory.

Virginia’s attack dominated the opening of the fourth set, leading the Cavaliers to a quick 5-1 lead. Hitting .261 for the stanza, while holding the Dukes to a -.062 attack percentage, the Cavaliers increased their lead to 11, at 22-11, and never looked back. Allowing the Dukes to score just five more points, Virginia cruised to a 25-16 victory to sweep the season opening tournament.

The Cavaliers will return to action next weekend at the Denver Pioneer Classic in Denver, Colo. Virginia will take on the Pioneers on Friday, Sept. 5, before facing Tennessee and Iowa on Saturday.

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