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LINCOLN, Neb. – The Virginia volleyball team closed out the Ameritas Players Challenge at the University of Nebraska on Saturday evening with a 3-1 (25-15, 29-27, 18-25, 25-17) win over Brigham Young University. The win improves the Cavaliers to 5-4 on the season, while BYU falls to 4-6.

“The win over BYU was a nice win because it demonstrated our improvement throughout the tournament and our tenacity as the match went on,” head coach Lee Maes said. “Our goal was to expose our team to some of the best competition in the country and this tournament certainly provided us that opportunity. We played a very good BYU squad and I’m really proud of our level of execution and the performance our team was able to sustain over the course of the match.”

Senior Lauren Dickson led the Cavaliers with her 22nd career double-double, knocking down a team-high 16 kills to go with 13 digs.

“Lauren has demonstrated such poise and maturity in her play,” Maes said. “She has been a very stabilizing factor that gives our team and coaching staff confidence. Her performance is also an example of how much she has improved in the mental approach she takes to playing this game.”

To compliment Dickson, junior libero AJ Cushman led the defense with a career-high 26 digs and six assists.

“AJ has been tremendous with her back row play,” Maes said. “She has been very dependable serving and passing. She has made a lot of big digs and it has become a significant difference maker for us.”

Sophomore Simone Asque also collected a double-double for the Cavaliers, landing 12 kills and digging 13 attacks. Freshman Rachel Gray distributed 35 assists and had a personal-best – and match-high – six blocks, while freshman Jessica O’Shoney contributed a five blocks.

For the Cougars, Kayla Walker led all players with 17 kills, while Morgan Lloyd Sorensen had 21 digs. Kiana Rogers dished out 41 helpers.

Behind the serving of sophomore Hillary Trebels and a strong presence at the net by the Cavaliers, Virginia was able to rattle off four-straight points early in the opening frame to pull ahead 6-2. The Cavaliers then strung together an 8-0 run behind a stellar defensive effort – anchored by Cushman, who had nine digs in the game – to increase their lead to 10. Dickson landed two of her seven kills of the set following the run, putting Virginia up 23-12, and the Cavaliers cruised to a 25-15 victory.

The second set didn’t go quite as smoothly for the Cavaliers, as the Cougars jumped out to a 4-0 advantage and then had another four-point run that pushed them ahead 13-6. Virginia held on until Dickson’s 10th kill of the match sparked a 7-0 run for the Cavaliers, knotting the score at 19-19 all. Virginia couldn’t take the lead though, as BYU recorded two-straight points. A kill from Hill nipped any chance of a run for the Cougars and three-straight blocks – two from the Cavaliers – evened the score again at 21. The two squads proceeded to keep the score even through extra points until an attack error on BYU and a block from Hill and Gray gave the Cavaliers the two points they needed for a 29-27 set win.

The beginning of the third frame was similar to the second with the Cougars using a 4-0 run to pull ahead 7-3. This time the Cavaliers couldn’t recover, though, as the two squads traded points the entire game and BYU went on to win it’s first set of the match, 25-18.

Virginia capitalized on five Cougar service errors in the fourth set, en route to a 24-17 win. The Cavaliers used a five-point run to pull ahead of BYU, 9-4, following an error and used another 7-2 run to increase their advantage to eight, at 16-8. Two more service errors throughout the next few points gave the Cavaliers the momentum and they used a 4-0 run to make the score 23-13 and held on for the win.

“We’re happy with the win, but more importantly this victory gives us momentum in preparation for our ACC match versus Virginia Tech,” Maes said.

The Cavaliers will return to Memorial Gymnasium next weekend to host the Marriott Cavalier Invitational. Albany, Villanova and conference-foe Virginia Tech will head to Charlottesville for the two-day tournament. Virginia will host the Hokies at 7 p.m. on Friday evening.

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