Sports, Volleyball

Canes split pair of five-set thrillers with LSU

 

Senior Alex Johnson spikes the ball past LSU middle blocker Khourtni Fears during the third set of their game on Saturday, as Miami players Misty Ma'a and Alexis Mourning brace for a return. Although Miami dropped the third set, 18-25, they did win the game in five sets for their first victory at home this season. Charlotte Cushing // Staff Photographer

Senior Alex Johnson spikes the ball past LSU middle blocker Khourtni Fears during the third set of their game on Saturday, as Miami players Misty Ma’a and Alexis Mourning brace for a return. Although Miami dropped the third set, 18-25, they did win the game in five sets for their first victory at home this season. Charlotte Cushing // Staff Photographer

The Miami women’s volleyball team kicked off their home schedule this weekend with a pair of five-set thrillers.

A full house ignited the Canes on Friday night, and Miami took an early two-set lead on Louisiana State University.

Preseason All-ACC honoree Alex Johnson and junior Savanah Leaf were the two offensive forces for Miami, with 19 and 18 kills for the match, respectively.

The Canes took a 23-21 lead in the third set, and it appeared they were ready to wrap things up.

But the Tigers (6-0 entering the match) locked down on defense and rounded into shape late.

LSU completed an enormous comeback effort and won in five sets: 23-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-10.

Katie Lindelow – who is normally defensive-minded – went on a tear for the rejuvenated Tigers and finished with 14 kills.

The loss snapped the Hurricanes’ home winning streak at 18 straight. Their last defeat at the Knight Sports Complex was against Georgia Tech in October 2011.

On Saturday, the Canes turned the tables.

It was an encore rematch with the Tigers, and the sequel nearly had a similar ending.

Thanks to strong performances from Leaf, Emani Sims and Alexis Mourning, the Canes jumped out to another two-set lead, winning 25-18 and 25-17.

But LSU again found their focus and started banking on strong offensive blocking from sophomore Cati Leak (13 kills) and freshman Briana Holman (11 kills).

Miami suddenly found itself all tied up through four sets on consecutive nights.

Leaf said the Canes wanted to avoid back-to-back losses and came better prepared for the final set on Saturday.

“It’s just really about playing with a lot of heart,” said Leaf, who led Miami with 22 kills. “I think [Friday] night we didn’t come out here and didn’t finish it like we wanted to, and tonight we really had this idea that we’re not gonna … let them have the game.”

Miami prevailed 15-11 in the decisive fifth set.

Coach Jose Gandara, in his first year with the Canes, was happy with his team’s game management down the stretch.

“Teams are gonna get hot,” Gandara said. “You gotta just manage the ebbs and flows of the game, but you can’t lose your aggressiveness. You gotta trust that what you do is enough, and you play the way you play and do it in all conditions.”

Mourning made the final statement with one last spike, her 11th kill of the match.

Miami improved to 5-2 this season as LSU dropped to 7-1.

“We wanted to come here, push them to the very end in every single set,” Leaf said.

 

Hitting the Road

Miami will travel for its next seven games, and the Canes’ next home game is Oct. 11.

Friday-Saturday

NIKE Invitational (Norman, Okla.)

against Nebraska-Omaha, Oklahoma and Tulsa

SEPT. 28

1 p.m. at Boston College

SEPT. 29

1 p.m. at Syracuse

September 15, 2013

Reporters

Neil Dwyer


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