DEKALB, Ill. – Virginia (2-4) hit .321 as a team to complete its first sweep of the season on Saturday afternoon at the Holiday Inn Express Invitational, downing Northern Illinois (1-5), 25-18, 26-24, 25-18.
Sarah Billiard (Matthews, N.C.) led the Cavaliers in kills for the sixth time this season with 12 terminations. Jelena Novakovic (Belgrade, Serbia) added a season-best 11 kills and hit a career-best .625 off the right side in the sweep.
A pair of Virginia blocks ignited a 5-0 start and the Cavaliers never turned back. Chino Anukwuem (East Hanover, N.J.) and Billiard teamed up to make it 4-0 before Novakovic and Anukwuem made it back-to-back rejections for the fast start.
Billiard had five kills to lead the Cavaliers to a .280 hitting percentage in the opening frame. Meanwhile, UVA stifled the Huskies to just .121 in attack.
Virginia raced to an early 8-3 lead behind a pair of kills from Novakovic on the right side. NIU had an answer, however, rolling off a 9-2 run to take a 12-10 lead of its own. The Huskies maintained their tight advantage all the way to 23-21, before Novakovic again sparked the Cavaliers.
Her sixth kill of the match helped Virginia pull level before Megan Wilson (Brookville, Md.) sparked the Cavaliers to set point on a kill of her own. Middle blocker Kat Young (Chantilly, Va.) finished the set with her third kill, giving Virginia a 2-0 lead.
The Cavaliers kicked the attack into a new gear, hitting a scorching .462 in the third set to complete the sweep. Virginia recorded 15 kills, five of which came from Novakovic on the right side, while committing just three errors in the set.
The set marked a season best in hitting for the Cavaliers, while the Virginia defense also stepped up to hold NIU to just .155 hitting in the set.
• Four Cavaliers hit over .400 in the match.
• Billiard’s .429 hitting percentage marks a season best for the outside.
• The Cavaliers’ .321 hitting percentage was the highest since Nov. 11, 2016.
• Grace Turner (Cincinnati, Ohio) finished with six kills while Anukwuem and Young added five apiece.
Virginia returns home to Memorial Gymnasium next weekend for the Jefferson Cup. The Cavaliers will open the tournament on Friday, Sept. 7, against Youngstown State at 11 a.m.