There is an unwritten rule in all sports that says sometimes you get the breaks, and sometimes you just don’t.
Unfortunately for the Virginia Tech volleyball team, they did not get any breaks over the weekend.
The Hokies played host to two ACC teams this past weekend, losing matches against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on Friday and the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday. They marked the third and fourth straight losses for a Hokie team that has its eyes set on the NCAA Tournament.
“This was a really tough weekend for us,” said head coach Chris Riley. “But now we have do a little soul searching and see what kind of team we want to be.”
On Friday, the Hokies looked like they had righted the ship, coming out strong against an in-conference, third-place Wolfpack team. Tech was up 21-13 in the first set behind stellar play from sophomore outside hitter Kathyrn Caine, but then gave up nine straight points and eventually lost 25-23.
After that heartbreaking first set, the Hokies bounced back with ease, picking up a win in the second set to even the match. However, a few team mistakes and close calls that did not go their way sealed their fate, dropping the next two sets and sequentially the match. Caine played nearly perfectly off the bench (13 kills on 14 attacks) and Samantha Gostling, Cara Baarendse and Tori Hamsher also paced the Hokies’ attack.
Tech then came back to Cassell Coliseum on Sunday to take on the star-laden Tar Heels. Lead by All-American outside hitter Emily McGee and last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year Cameron Van Noy, Carolina came in looking to make the tournament for the second consecutive year.
The two teams played like their tournament bubble was about to burst. The first two sets had a total of 22 ties and eight lead changes, and the sides traded blocks and big kills. But, just as in the first match, the breaks did not go the Hokies’ way. And although they held McGee to a paltry three kills, the team dropped both sets. With the wind seemingly out of Tech’s sails, the Tar Heels put them away, sweeping the match 3-0.
The Hokies were lead by Gostling and Jennifer Wiker, who had 10 kills apiece.
“(North Carolina) just came out here and beat us,” Riley said. “They took control up front and we could never really answer.”
The losses leave the Hokies at 11-8, with a conference record of 4-5. Despite the slight slump, the team still has over half of their conference schedule remaining, providing a lot of time for improvement.
“We still have a lot of big games on our schedule,” said Riley. “We are really going to see what we are made of during the next few games.”
The Hokies are looking for their second ever trip to the postseason. Many of the players were members of the team in 2010 that earned the first tournament birth in school history. There is, however, no conference tournament in volleyball, meaning that Tech will have to receive one of the ever coveted “bubble spots” in order to make it.