Ospreys take down Virginia Tech in five-set thriller

Riley Platt, Reporter

Featured Image: UNF Ospreys/Todd Drexler

A win over a Power five school is something that had eluded UNF volleyball since 2005. However, that all changed on Friday night.

After kicking off the season by sweeping the FAU tournament, the Ospreys faced another unbeaten team: the Virginia Tech Hokies. Hailing from the ACC, a win over the Hokies would be monumental for a UNF team that has already made noise this season.

The match got off to a great start for UNF, quickly pulling out to a 7-2 lead in the opening set. As the frame progressed, though, the Hokies tightened things up. They would close the deficit to 2 points, but the Ospreys would make another run and cruise to a 25-15 win in the first set.

The Hokies had some costly errors at terrible times, but they would get things straightened up in the second set. Things were reasonably close throughout the middle of the set. However, Virginia Tech began to run away with a big lead. The Ospreys fought back, but Tech would ultimately take it, tying the match at one set a piece.

As the night progressed, one thing was very noticeable off the court: the fans. With a listed attendance of 366, each and every one made an impact on Friday’s game. Head coach Kristen Wright spoke on their impact following the match.

“It was epic. This is the best crowd since I’ve been here. This is what we need to have the year that we want… They were certainly part of our victory.”

The third set proved to be pivotal, as its winner would gain the upper hand in the match. A commanding kill by Bre Walp embodied the grit that UNF showed all night long. Despite being rather back-and-forth early, the set would quickly turn in UNF’s favor. The Ospreys ran away with it, gaining a 2-1 set lead.

A set win would seal the deal for the Ospreys, but would they be able to finish it off? A small run saw UNF go up 6-3 early on. The crowd then erupted following a powerful kill courtesy of freshman Amy Burkhardt, one of many newcomers who made their presence known. 

As the fourth set carried on, Virginia Tech slowly pulled away. An incredible save by Rocio Moro up against the bleachers was yet another example of the passion UNF was playing with. The Hokies would ultimately take the set, though, taking the match to a deciding fifth set.

Virginia Tech showed poise early. Their 8-4 lead would be cut down by an incredible 7-0 run by UNF. Errors allowed the Hokies to get back into the lead. Tech secured a 14-13 lead; one more point and they would take the match.

With adrenaline coursing through UNF Arena, a minute-plus volley had everyone holding their breath. Grace Youngblood made a wild save that allowed Anna Butler to tie it at 14-14 and keep the Ospreys alive. Another kill by Butler would give UNF the match win as the team stormed the court.

UNF finally took down a Power 5 team, and it just happened to be in the most exciting fashion possible. Coach Wright expressed pure elation following the massive win.

“This was a big, big opportunity for us tonight. We really wanted it. [They’re a] Power 5 school, and the last two years we’ve lost 15-13 in the fifth… I felt like we had control of the game most of the match… I like the fight. I like the grit. That’s what’s really important: that they have that fight and resilience to finish.”

Adding to the celebration was the fact that it was also Coach Wright’s birthday. What a way to cap off the day! 

Those present on Friday night witnessed what might be the biggest win in program history. Now sitting at 4-0, the Ospreys still have more work to be done throughout the rest of the UNF Invitational this weekend. Early wins are showing that the sky’s truly the limit for this Ospreys team. 


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