Sport - NCAA
Cavaliers taking next steps 'one percent' at a time
August 12th, 12:50 AM EDT
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- As UVA volleyball enters year two under head coach Shannon Wells, the second-year coach does not shy away from her ultimate goal for the program.
"Ultimately our step here is to win a national championship, and how long that takes I don't know," Wells said, "I've been in those situations and it takes a lot of luck and keeping kids healthy and a lot of grit and things falling into place. Right now we're just focused on today, we're trying to get one percent better everyday."
The early results show modest improvement with the Cavaliers winning one ACC match last season, a step up from their winless record the season prior. While wins were hard to come by in year one under Wells, coaches and players could see a clear difference as the season progressed and the offseason arrived.
"We have this saying, one percent better, and if you look at how long we've been here, how long we've been working, one percent better starts to add up and so that's just the work ethic in the gym," senior Mattison Matthews said, "You come in, you fail hard, you fail fast, you get one percent better."
Players call this offseason the longest any volleyball has ever spent on Grounds with the team starting in January and then the Cavaliers picking up voluntary open gyms over the summer. Wells described the team as "well beyond" what she thought was possible at this stage due to the extra time over the summer.
Virginia added four transfers in the offseason with former Ole Miss teammates Gabby Easton and GG Carvacho, Veresia Yon from West Florida and Chloe Wilson from Wake Forest. Wells said when the newcomers joined this fall, the need for her and coaches to step in lessened with the veterans taking the lead.
"Coming in as a team we're really excited for what's next, how hard that we've worked in the summer and also in the spring," senior Grace Turner said, "As compared to last year, I think we're going to come out impressing a lot of people."
The ACC is coming off a banner year in volleyball with both Louisville and Pittsburgh ending the season ranked in the top-five nationally. Wells called the conference the best in college volleyball.
With the growth of volleyball in the ACC, Virginia faces an uphill climb to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. But Wells sees the journey starting this offseason with the culture established by her veterans.
"I don't know when we're going to win a national championship, I can't see the future," Wells said, "But I do know that when that happens if will be a huge part of the kids that are working today."
UVA opens the season on Friday, August 26 in Gainesville for three matches.