AMES, Iowa – Virginia (0-2) volleyball came just a few points away from exiting the first day of the 2018 season at 2-0. Instead, the Cavaliers were dealt a pair of narrow defeats at the hands of Ole Miss and Oregon State.
The Cavaliers raced to first-set victories in each match, before seeing the Rebels and Beavers rally back. Sarah Billiard (Matthews, N.C.) piled up 33 kills to lead Virginia on the day.
MATCH 1: Ole Miss 3, Virginia 1 (25-20, 20-25, 23-25, 29-31)
Virginia out-hit Ole Miss in the opening match of the season, but a 15-point differential at the service line proved too much for the Cavaliers to overcome. The Rebels served up 10 aces to Virginia’s three, while the Cavaliers committed 15 service errors to Ole Miss’ six.
The Cavaliers floored 55 kills to Ole Miss’ 49 and out-blocked the Rebels 12-9 in the loss. Emily Stroup led Ole Miss and the match with 21 kills, while Billiard paced Virginia with 14 terminations.
Virginia hit a blistering .343 in the opening set to overcome an early deficit en route to a 25-20 victory. Billiard led the way with five kills in the opening set, helping the Cavaliers finish the frame on an 11-5 run.
Ole Miss rode three early aces to build a 5-1 lead and later a 9-5 advantage. The Cavaliers then reeled off a 6-1 run to take their first lead of the day at 11-10. Chino Anukwuem (East Hanover, N.J.) knocked down a pair of kills during the streak. Virginia created separation with a 4-1 run to break a 16-16 deadlock before Kat Young (Chantilly, Va.) and Jelena Novakovic (Belgrade, Serbia) teamed up for the block to seal the 25-20 win.
After Ole Miss built a 16-10 lead to open the set, Virginia stormed back with a 6-0 run to tie the game. The Rebels responded with a run of their own, scoring the next four points to take a 20-16 lead. Emily Stroup powered the Ole Miss attack, knocking down six kills to drive the Rebels’ 25-20 win to level the match.
Virginia out-hit Ole Miss by .160 points, but the service line proved the difference in the set. The Cavaliers committed five service errors while the Rebels racked up four aces, including the final point of the set to win 25-23.
A 5-0 Ole Miss run in the middle of the frame spelled trouble for Virginia as the Hoos dug an 18-13 deficit. The Cavaliers battled back with a 4-0 run of their own to close the gap to one at 19-18.
The Cavaliers would go on to stave off four match points, but Ole Miss finally put the match away at 31-29 behind a block from Caitlin Wernentin and Aubrey Sultemeier.
• Three Cavaliers, Billiard (14), Alex Spencer (11) and Novakovic (10) finished the match in double-digit kills.
• Libero Kelsey Miller (Crestwood, Ky.) racked up 23 digs in the match.
• Virginia out-hit Ole Miss, .199-.125.
• Young and Anukwuem recorded nine and eight kills, respectively, while adding a combined 11 blocks.
MATCH 2: Oregon State 3, Virginia 2 (25-19, 14-25, 25-16, 22-25, 15-17)
Five sets alone was not enough to separate Virginia and 2018 NCAA Tournament participant Oregon State, as extra points were needed in the final frame of the Beavers’ dramatic victory.
The Cavaliers built a 2-1 lead in the match and seemed in control of both the fourth and fifth sets before Oregon State rallied behind a dominating block at the net. The Beavers rejected 15 Cavalier attacks in the match, including five in the fourth set to spark the comeback.
Billiard powered Virginia to another quick start on opening day, knocking down seven kills to lead the Cavaliers to a 25-19 victory in set one. Novakovic chipped in another three and Anukwuem provided the other two kills for Virginia, who held Oregon State to just .080 hitting.
Miller racked up five digs in the opening set while Alex Spencer (North Canton, Ohio) dug up another four Beaver attacks.
The Beavers lit up the scoreboard in the second set, committing just a single error in attack to hit .654 in the frame. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers were limited to just six kills while committing six errors as Oregon State cruised 25-14.
Virginia jumped to an early 8-3 advantage, but Oregon State answered with a 5-0 run to take a 10-9 lead of its own. The Cavaliers then reeled off a 12-1 run, highlighted by a pair of Megan Wilson (Brookefield, Md.) aces, to build a 21-11 lead. The big run included an 8-0 service run by Wilson as Virginia rolled to a 25-16 victory.
Novakovic picked up four kills in the set as the Hoos hit .323 in the third.
The Cavaliers built an early 10-6 lead, but the Beavers responded with their backs against the wall. Down 19-17, Oregon State reeled off four straight points to retake the lead. Virginia got within one at 23-22, but the Beavers scored the next two points to force the match into a decisive fifth set.
The Cavaliers rallied back from a 3-0 start to win the race to 10. With a 10-7 lead, Virginia saw Oregon State go on a 5-0 run behind the serve of Maddie Sheehan to take 12-10 advantage.
Virginia leveled the set at 13-all and then staved off a pair of match points. With Oregon State leading 16-15, a final Cavalier attack sailed long in a heartbreaking 17-15 defeat.
• Anukwuem hit .500 with 10 kills to lead the match in hitting percentage.
• The Cavaliers racked up 75 digs, led by Miller’s 20 and Spencer’s 16.
• Billiard came one kill shy of matching her career high, flooring 19 points in the match.
• Wilson recorded her third career double-double with 47 assists and 10 digs.
Virginia closes the Iowa State Challenge against No. 21 Iowa State on Saturday at 11 a.m. The match against the Cyclones will be broadcast on Cyclones.tv ($).