One Hurricane team is headed to meaningful postseason play and it’s well-deserved.
For the second consecutive season, the University of Miami volleyball team will compete in the NCAA tournament.
“We’re excited to be going to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row” said 10th-year head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch, who has built the program from the ground up since volleyball was brought back to Miami in 2001. “What this team did at the end of the season to secure their spot was pretty special.”
Indeed it was.
Miami won its final five matches of the regular season, all against ACC opponents.
The run included a thrilling finale against in-state rival Florida State, a contest that Hurricanes won in five sets.
“That was a really big match for us… it was a really good test for us and we’re excited about that win and, you know, spring boarding from there,” Lantagne Welch said.
The Hurricanes, who were selected for the Dayton, Ohio regional of the tournament, will be part of a four-team field set to play at the University of Indiana’s Bloomington campus.
Miami will face off against the hosting Hoosiers this upcoming Friday, but the clear home court advantage doesn’t seem to bother the Hurricanes.
“I’ve heard they’re pretty good at home but I think… when it comes down to it it’s a court, same ball, same everything, so its not really going to matter at this point,” said junior outside hitter Lane Carico, who was named to the All-ACC volleyball team for the third consecutive season.
When Carico was asked about being named to the all-conference team she remained humble, largely crediting her teammates for the achievement.
Her coach, on the other hand, was quicker to praise the star outside hitter.
“Lane’s arguably the best all around player in the conference,“ Lantagne Welch said. “She just does so many little things… her ability to make people around her better. She’s a special player.”
Despite the Hurricanes’ success, the team came into the season with a few question marks, mainly surrounding the seven new freshmen on the roster.
There were some growing pains, but the underclassman have started to shine down the stretch and are a big reason why Miami is playing its best volleyball at the most important time of the year.
“I think as freshman we’re starting to take more initiative and [are]actually starting to step up on the court, not just being tentative,” freshman Libero Ryan Shaffer said. “I’m kind of used to it, having the pressure of being young and playing with older girls.”
Despite the fact that the Canes will open up the tournament in a hostile environment, Lantagne Welch recognizes one distinct advantage that her team will hold over Indiana, a program that will be going to the tournament for the first time since 2002.
“Having the experience of playing in the tournament last year is something that is going to help us. Last year we came out very shaky in that match [against FIU],” Lantagne Welch said. “Knowing that we have a lot of players that have been there before I do think that we’ll come out more prepared and more ready.”
Adam Berger may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First round match: Miami @ Indiana
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
Other two teams in pairing: Tennessee and Alabama A&M