The Virginia volleyball team opened its season on Friday afternoon defeating Valpraiso, 3-1 (24-26, 25-10, 25-14, 28-26), in the first game of the Temple Invitational.
"It's nice to start the season with a win," head coach Lee Maes said. "Obviously, we got rid of some first match jitters in the first set. Our big focus with these early matches is to find some continuity and rhythm in our play, but it's a little more difficult when we are playing a number of players throughout the entire match. Ultimately, we were more efficient offensively than Valparaiso today."
Sophomore All-ACC honoree Simone Asque led the way offensively with a career-high 30 kills, tying Jessica Parsons (2000) and Whitney Casey (1995) for the program's seventh-best single-match output for kills. It is also the best individual match performance for a Cavalier since the game switched to rally scoring in 2001. In addition, Asque picked up eight digs and landed three aces on the day.
Sophomore Tobi Farrar helped Asque with the offensive load, also knocking down a career-high in kills, with 11.
Defensively, freshman Emily Rottman and senior AJ Cushman led the way, with Rottman collecting a match-high 26 digs in her collegiate debut and Cushman earned 25.
Redshirt sophomore Beth Wildermuth picked up her first career double-double, dishing out a match-high 33 assists and collecting 10 digs, while sophomore Rachel Gray helped in controlling the offense, handing out 22 helpers.
Sophomore Jessica O'Shoney landed seven kills for the Cavaliers and both O'Shoney and junior Tess Udall blocked a game-high five attacks.
Three Cavalier freshmen made their collegiate debuts in the match – Rottman, Nika Simenc and Mallory Woolridge – while Rottman and Wildermuth, a transfer from Notre Dame, started their first match in a Virginia uniform.
The first set was a close battle with the largest lead being three points, held by the Cavaliers at 10-7 and again at 13-10. Valparaiso responded from its deficit though, with three-straight points to knot the score at 13 all, and from there – the two squads traded serves to bring the game to a tie score 10 more times. The Cavaliers maintained the advantage throughout that stretch, before three-straight kills from Valpo gave the Crusaders the set win in extra points, 26-24.
The second set couldn't have been any more different than the first. Behind the firepower of Asque, who landed 11 kills without an error on 17 swings (.647), the Cavaliers took a commanding 18-5 advantage and never looked back, earning a 25-10 win – the largest margin of victory in a single set under Maes.
Virginia gave up the first three points of the third frame, but responded to knot the score at three behind a kill from Asque and two-straight from Udall. The score remained even through the next few serves, before the Cavaliers were able to string together an 11-3 run to take a 17-9 lead and cruise to a 25-14 victory.
With the score tied at 24 in the fourth set, senior Kendahl Voelker landed a kill to give Virginia a match-point opportunity, but an attack error by the Cavaliers evened the score back at 25. Another error on Virginia's part gave the Crusaders a set-point opportunity of their own; before Asque's 30th kill and back-to-back errors from Valparaiso gave the Cavaliers a 28-26 set win.
With the win, Virginia improves to 18-14 when playing the first match of the season and has won 14 of its last 17 season opening contests.
"We look forward to making improvements in our next match," Maes said. "We know it's early and that we will continue to be a work in progress, but I like our chemistry and I know our players will continue to improve their performance every time they play."
The Cavaliers will return to action tomorrow, playing two matches. Virginia will first face Delaware at 1 p.m., before taking on the host Temple at 7 p.m.