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State of the Program - Volleyball

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Virginia Media Relations - Matt Riley

The Cavaliers’ volleyball program has been through a lot of ups and downs in it’s 40 year history. Unfortunately, over that time, the program has seen more valleys than peaks. Right now, the team is deep within a crater looking up at the outside world.

Head Coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton was a mainstay with the program for 13 seasons from 1995-2007 leading the Hoos to two NCAA tournament appearances in 1998 and 1999; the only two postseason appearances in program history. Since 2007, the Cavaliers are now on their third coach, Aaron Smith, who enters his third season with UVa this fall.

Volleyball Five Year Results

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Year Overall Record ACC Record Head Coach
Year Overall Record ACC Record Head Coach
2018 8-20 4-14 Aaron Smith
2017 7-24 3-17 Aaron Smith
2016 7-25 4-16 Dennis Hohenshelt
2015 18-13 10-10 Dennis Hohenshelt
2014 17-14 10-8 Dennis Hohenshelt

2018 Recap

As seen in the table above, 2018 wasn’t a banner year for the volleyball program. Due in large part to a young roster that Smith inherited, 2018 saw only one senior on the roster and six juniors.

Thanks to being in the ACC, the team took their lumps due to the conference producing five teams in last season’s NCAA tournament (Duke, Syracuse, Louisville, Pitt, FSU), lead by No. 12 overall seed Pittsburgh. The talent disparity between the Cavaliers and those five teams were apparent in the final game scores with UVa falling to all of them 0-3, save for Louisville, who UVa did take 2 games from.

The highlight of the 2018 campaign had to come against in-state rival Virginia Tech in Charlottesville in early November. After trading the first four games, the Hoos were two points away from another loss, down 13-11 to the Hokies. They were able to rattle off three straight points to take the lead 14-13. The Hokies would tie the game at 14s, but UVa would win the final two points to take the deciding set 16-14.

2019 Outlook

The good news is it probably cannot get much worse for the Hoos in 2019. At the end of the 2018 season, UVa had an RPI of 233, which was the second worst RPI among Power 5 teams (thank you No. 247 Miss. St.).

The 2019 season should also be a step in the right direction for Coach Smith as he’ll have five seniors and four juniors at his disposal. The incoming class earned a “High Honorable Mention” by Prepvolleyball.com, meaning they have an incoming class of one of the Top 100 in the country and should help Smith in the future in balancing out the roster.

The schedule should be manageable as well. Outside of the 5 ACC teams that made the 2018 NCAA Tournament that UVa will only have to play once, the Hoos won’t face another postseason team in their out of conference play.

2018 was a rough year for UVa volleyball and one that all involved would admit is not fitting for an athletic program like UVa’s. With a balanced roster and a manageable schedule, Coach Smith should be able to start righting the ship in 2019.