Cavaliers Earn First ACC Victory, Down Clemson in Five Sets
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Behind three players in double-digit kills, the Virginia volleyball team earned its first Atlantic Coast Conference win Sunday afternoon, defeating Clemson, 3-2 (19-25, 25-26, 24-26, 25-19, 15-10), in Memorial Gymnasium. The win moves the Cavaliers to 7-8 on the season and 1-4 in the league, while Clemson drops to 11-5 overall and 2-3 in the ACC. The win also marks head coach Lee Maes’ first-ever victory over Clemson.
“It was a great win for our team today,” Maes said. “We were in a similar situation versus Georgia Tech on Friday night, but today we responded with mental toughness and composure. We’ve put ourselves in a position to win a few matches this year, but we’ve lost too many close sets. I’m very happy that our team continues to fight, continues to improve and continues to play for each other. That was evident in our sustained energy today; and as a team, we responded very well to being behind and coming back to win. We know we are a work in progress and the best tact as a coach is to show patience and belief. We look forward to our next competition and taking advantage of the momentum that we gained from today’s match.”
Freshman McKenzie Adams led the team offensively and broke the program’s all-time freshman record for kills along the way. The rookie hitter landed a personal-best 29 kills on the day to replace former Cavalier All-American Sarah Kirkwood, who had 28 against Louisville in 2004, atop the leader board.
Adams also joined junior Simone Asque in becoming the first Cavalier duo to record at least 20 kills in the same match since Kirkwood (26) and former Cavalier Lauren Dickson (24) did so against Miami in 2007.
In addition, Adams and Asque both had solid defensive performances too, each finishing the day with double-doubles. Adams picked up a personal-best 16 digs to register her second collegiate double-double, while Asque earned the 15th double-double of her career – and fifth of the season – tacking on 10 digs.
Redshirt sophomore Beth Wildermuth also made history today – distributing a personal-best 73 assists to tie the ninth-best single match record for a setter in UVa history. Her total stands as the best individual performance for a Cavalier since Emily Kirkwood dished out 81 helpers against North Carolina in 2003 and the second best since the game moved to rally scoring in 2001.
Other noteworthy performances on the day were sophomore Jess O’Shoney, who landed a career-high 19 kills, and senior AJ Cushman, who anchored the defense with a match-high 26 digs. Freshman Emily Rottman helped defensively, contributing 12 digs, and classmate Rachel Clark knocked down a collegiate-best seven kills.
As a squad, the Cavaliers out-hit Clemson, earning 83 kills on a .279 clip – the best any team has hit against the Tigers this year, while Clemson tallied 53 kills and a .268 attack percentage. Virginia’s defense out-dug the Tigers, 80-63, while the Cavaliers accumulated 80 assists, compared to Clemson’s 49. In blocking, the Tigers – ranked fourth nationally in the category – earned the advantage, knocking back 12.5 attacks, while the Cavaliers blocked three.
Serenat Yaz paced the Tigers with a double-double of 16 kills and 16 digs, while Sandra Adeleye had a team-best 18 kills. Alexa Rand earned a match-high nine blocks, while Moneshia Simmons had 11 kills and 12 digs. Lacy Hayes dished out 45 assists.
A slow start plagued the Cavaliers in the beginning of the first set, as they fell behind 10-6. Clemson then worked its lead to five, at 17-12, forcing Virginia to use its second timeout. The Cavaliers were unable to recover from the deficit though, as Clemson cruised to a 25-19 win.
Virginia turned things around in the second set. Using four-straight points, the Cavaliers pulled ahead 9-6 and then saw a 5-0 run increase their lead to 17-10. Virginia continued to extend its advantage throughout the set, working it to 10 at 24-14, before Asque landed a kill to secure a 25-16 win and a 1-1 match score.
The third set was a back-and-forth battle, featuring 15 ties and even scores at 23 and 24. A kill from O’Shoney gave the Cavaliers the first set-point opportunity, at 24-23, but the Tigers fought it off knotting the score at 24, before a consecutive ace and kill gave Clemson the two-straight points it needed to steal a 26-24 set victory.
Virginia jumped ahead 7-2 in the fourth frame and worked to control the set throughout. Holding on to its advantage and later using a 4-0 run, the Cavaliers increased its lead to seven, at19-12. From there, the squads traded points, allowing Virginia to hold on for a 25-19 win and to force a deciding game.
The Cavaliers came together as a team in the fifth set to earn a 15-10 victory and move their record to 2-2 in deciding games this year. Anchored by six kills from Adams, the Cavaliers hit .474 as a team, while holding the Tigers to a .294 clip, and turned an 11-6 lead into a 15-10 victory.
Virginia will return to action next weekend, heading to Boston College and Maryland. The Cavaliers will face the Eagles on Friday at 7 p.m., before taking on the Terrapins on Sunday at 2 p.m.