Fall, Volleyball

Eagles Drop Another Heartbreaker in Five-Set Loss to Virginia

Every sports season has its up and downs. Teams go through unbelievable hot stretches, or periods where they can’t seem to buy a win. Boston College volleyball seems to be stuck in the latter. The Eagles (12-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) are going through a brutal portion of their schedule, with four-consecutive conference road games. It began with a blowout loss to Duke and continued with a back-and-forth five set loss against Wake Forest where the Eagles had match point twice. But after dropping another tough five-set match to Virginia Friday night, the Eagles have started their stretch away from home 0-for-3.  

BC started the match off hot. Five different players recorded kills, pushing the Eagles out to a 8-4 first-frame advantage. They would keep the momentum going, extending the lead to 13-8 after McKenna Goss’ first kill of the game, effectively forcing UVA to use its first timeout of the game to stop the bleeding. And stop it the Cavaliers did. Right out of the break, they cut the Eagles lead to 14-12 thanks to three-consecutive kills from Grace Turner, forcing BC into a timeout of its own. The teams split the next 12 points evenly, but consecutive attack errors from Amaka Chukwujekwu and Clare Naughton, who finished the day with a team-high 16 kills, knotted the teams up at 22. The Eagles momentarily regained the lead at 23-22, but Turner hit successive service aces to give the Cavaliers the first set, 25-23.

In the second frame, BC was able to flip the script, knotting the match up at 1. Again, the Eagles jumped out to a fast start, as two kills by Naughton staked the Eagles to a 4-1 lead. The teams traded 4-0 runs, but two kills from Cat Balido and an attack error stretched the BC lead to 14-8 and forced another Virginia timeout. The Cavaliers were able to regroup, winning nine of the next 14 points and trimming the BC lead to 19-17 before an Eagles timeout. Another mini-UVA run out of the break tied up the match at 22-22. This time, however, BC was able to pull out a 25-23 set win, thanks to kills from Balido and Goss.

Unlike the manic, tight nature of the first two sets, the third was all UVA. The Cavaliers jumped out to an 8-2 lead off the bat, as Sarah Billiard struck for two kills and the Eagles committed four attack errors. It didn’t get any better for BC from there. Virginia ran its lead to 15-6, then 18-8 on an error from freshman Jewel Strawberry, before the Eagles finally found a little bit of momentum, winning 5-of-8 points to cut the lead to 21-13. Despite that run, BC couldn’t get any closer, as one final kill from Billiard finished off the third frame with the Cavaliers on top, 25-17.

The fourth set was even from the very beginning. Virginia and BC split the first eight points, before the Cavaliers gained some separation to go on top, 6-4, after an attack error from Balido. The Eagles continued to fight until they finally rattled off three-straights points to grab a 13-12 lead on another kill from Naughton. The teams continued to trade points, with UVA tying the frame at 18 on a kill from Milla Ciprian after a Cavaliers timeout.

The set continued to seesaw back and forth, until kills from Balido and Naughton and a timely service ace from libero Makenzie Morrison gave BC a 24-22 lead. Not willing to let the Cavaliers back into the set, Morrison hit another service ace on the next point, handing the Eagles the frame, 25-22, and sending the match to a winner-take-all fifth frame.

In the fifth, it was the Eagles who got off to a fast start, largely because of Naughton. The sophomore struck with her 14th and 15th kills of the match, pushing BC to an early 3-1 lead, then found some open space for a service ace, prompting a UVA timeout with the Eagles leading 7-3. The Cavaliers slowly crawled back into the frame, eventually drawing even at 9-9 after Billiard’s 22nd kill of the match. The underclassman was a problem for BC’s defense all match long, recording a match-high 24 kills.

For just a moment, it looked like the Eagles would be able to overcome Billiard’s tremendous effort, as Strawberry gave BC match point at 14-13, but it wasn’t able to convert. Ciprian tied the fifth at 14, and UVA finished off the Eagles after two attack errors from Balido.

A second-straight close five-set loss leaves BC searching for any form of momentum. With the bulk of the ACC schedule remaining, much of the positivity surrounding the program is beginning to evaporate after a fast start. The Eagles have yet to win a conference game on the road, and its certainly fair to question if their blistering start to the season was somewhat of a mirage. With 13 games left to play, it won’t take long to find out the answer.

Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff

October 6, 2018