Hurricanes volleyball defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 3-2 in a heart-pounding, five-set match (20-25, 25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 15-11) on Sunday, Sept. 24, to remain the only undefeated team left in the ACC.
Led by 21 kills from senior outside hitter Olga Strantzali and a match-high 43 assists from redshirt junior setter Haley Templeton, Miami overcame issues early against a strong Virginia defense. Both Strantzali and Templeton were preseason All-ACC selections.
The Canes found themselves down 18-15 in the second set after dropping the first at James L. Knight Sports Complex.
That’s when it clicked.
Following a media timeout, Miami fought back with consecutive blocks. Two aces from sophomore setter Hannah Sorensen down the stretch sealed the deal, giving UM its momentum back.
The Hurricanes would split the next two sets but showed the mental toughness to hold the lead for the entire fifth set to claim the victory.
Miami improves its record to 8-0 overall and 2-0 in ACC play. Virginia loses its fourth-straight game, dropping its record to 4-9 and 0-2 in the ACC.
UM was forced to cancel five of its matches because of Hurricane Irma. After defeating Florida Gulf Coast on Sept. 2, the Canes had to wait 20 days before taking the court again on Sept. 22 against Virginia Tech.
“Missing five games out of eleven in your preseason is significant, but we are moving forward and we can’t let that be a factor,” Coach Jose Gandara said when asked about the impact of the break.
Templeton agreed it was frustrating to miss such a large chunk of the season.
“We all wanted to get back and play together … it just felt so good to get back in the gym again,” she said.
The Canes are now 8-0 for the first time since 2011, a notable turnaround from last year’s 15-17 finish. This year’s team has five seniors, and the experience level is clearly paying dividends.
“When this team showed up on Aug. 8, we were at the best level we have been at since I got here,” said Gandara, who is coaching in his fifth year at Miami.
Strantzali agrees this is the best group she has been a part of during her time at the U.
“We have been playing together for the last three years, so I feel like we know each other and we are a more mature team than we were before,” Strantzali said.
Despite being undefeated, the Hurricanes are still unranked. They did, however, receive 13 votes in the last Division I Coaches Poll, so they are making strides toward the top 25.
Miami continued its pursuit of an ACC championship when it traveled to play Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, in South Bend, Indiana, where they defeated the Fighting Irish 3-1.
“This is a fun group to be around – it’s a fun group to watch,” Gandara said. “I think they will continue to get better, and I would just like to see our students, faculty and staff come to our games.”