CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia volleyball opens its 40th season on Friday (Aug. 24), as the Cavaliers head to the Iowa State Challenge in Ames, Iowa. Virginia will face Ole Miss and Oregon State on opening day before taking on host No. 21 Iowa State on Saturday (Aug. 25).
The Cavaliers return a wealth of experience from the 2017 squad, with over 80 percent of the team’s production back in 2018. Each of the top four kill leaders from 2017 headline the roster as Jelena Novakovic (Belgrade, Serbia), Alex Spencer (North Canton, Ohio), Sarah Billiard (Matthews, N.C.) and Chino Anukwuem (East Hanover, N.J.) all return.
On the defensive side of the net, libero Kelsey Miller (Crestwood, Ky.) returns to anchor the back row after leading Virginia with 417 digs a season ago.
Virginia faces a trio of talented teams on the weekend, as each experienced the postseason in 2017. Both Oregon State and Iowa State reached the NCAA Tournament, while Ole Miss captured the NIVC Championship.
Friday, Aug. 24 – vs. Ole Miss – 11 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 24 – vs. Oregon State – 5 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 25 – at No. 21 Iowa State – 11 a.m.
2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Cavaliers squad that became the first in program history to reach the NCAA Tournament.
The 1998 club went 26-8 to set the program record for wins and finished 12-4 in the ACC. The Hoos finished second in the league, matching the program’s best finish.
YOUNG BUT TESTED
The Cavaliers are poised to take a step forward as the top four kill leaders from 2017 return to Grounds. Despite a roster with only one senior, the Hoos boast plenty of experience with 10 letterwinners returning from a season ago.
87 percent of the offense returns for Virginia, including both setters, while 82 percent of digs return from 2017. At the net, the Cavaliers return 83 percent of their blocking.
Four new faces join the Cavaliers for the 2018 season. The newcomers are comprised of a trio of freshman and one transfer.
Outside hitter Christine Jarman (Boynton Beach, Fla.) joins the Hoos after spending her freshman season at Alabama. Jarman appeared in all 32 matches for the Crimson Tide, recording 249 kills and 189 digs.
Freshman Milla Ciprian (St. John’s, Fla.) adds to the Cavaliers’ depth at middle blocker. Ciprian was a Top 150 Senior Ace according to PrepVolleyball.com and a four-time AVCA Phenom selection.
Grace Turner (Cincinnati, Ohio) will join the ranks of outside hitters on Grounds. A 6-foot-3 addition, Turner was a 2017 AVCA Under Armour All-Star. She earned District Player of the Year as a senior as well.
On the back row, Kristen Leland (Dallas, Texas) comes to Virginia out of the Episcopal School of Dallas. The defensive specialist was ranked among the top 25 players in talent-rich Texas by FloVolleyball. Leland was also a member of the 2015 AVCA Phenom list.
Virginia will face a pair of new foes in Ole Miss and Oregon State to open the season on Friday. The Hoos are 2-1 all-time against host Iowa State, last facing the Cyclones in 2015. Virginia claimed a 25-22, 25-16, 18-25, 20-25, 15-9 victory in that meeting.