It was 9:38 p.m. last Friday. That’s when the UM women’s volleyball team (7-1, 1-0 ACC) made history by beating its archrival, No. 6 Florida State, three sets to one in front of a record crowd of 1,129.
It was Miami’s first win over a top-10 opponent. The biggest previous upset was a victory over No. 15 Wisconsin in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
Needless to say, fans, coaches and players were ecstatic.
“It’s just really exciting,” said UM outside hitter Alex Johnson, a Tallahassee native. “All of our hard work is paying off. We had four hard days of practice this week to prepare and we came out and executed the game plan.”
After dropping the first set 18-25, the Canes and Johnson took over, winning three straight sets by scores of 25-17, 25-22 and 25-18. Johnson, a junior, would eventually lead all players with 16 kills while teammate Nrithya Sundararaman had a field day herself with a whopping 50 assists, six more than all Seminoles combined.
“It was a complete team effort,” coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said after the game. “We handled the ball so well that we just had an extremely balanced offense. Shots were low … and we just got all the hitters involved and just had a great offense. We stepped up to the plate.”
Miami also out-blocked Florida State 11-9.
“We’ve been working on blocking the whole week,” said redshirt sophomore Emani Sims, who led all players with five block assists.
Although the Canes played a superb match for the most part, the team made its fair share of mistakes, most notably with an uncharacteristically high number of service errors.
“We were trying to serve them pretty tough,” Lantagne Welch said. “But I think that we were a little lackadaisical there. We certainly weren’t trying to miss that many serves and we talked about it and addressed it during the match, so it’s something that we need to clean up a little bit and certainly take better care of our service.”
In the end, the Hurricanes came through, thanks in large part to the unwavering support of the thousand-plus fans in attendance.
With the crowd quickly filling up the stands, many had to resort to watching from the sides and even behind the teams’ benches.
After numerous “Let’s go Canes” chants and loud eruptions at big moments during the match, the floodgates finally opened when Miami scored to win the fourth set and the students rushed the court to celebrate with their triumphant team.
Fittingly enough, the historic night was broadcast by ESPN on its ESPNU channel, which was the first time the sports network broadcasted a UM volleyball match at the Knight Sports Complex.
For Lantagne Welch and her players, the victory over the Seminoles, who were seen as the unequivocal favorite to win the ACC, was more than just a great start to the season.
It was a statement.
“I am just really proud for this team,” Lantagne Welch said. “Because we’re working so hard and we lost a lot of players last year, so people might question how strong we are, and we showed these guys that if we can put it all together, we’re an outstanding team.”
But while the joy was big among coach and players late Friday night, the celebrations won’t last too long.
The Canes next head to the Louisville Tournament and will face UNLV on Friday.