UM Volleyball to face off against the mighty Irish
The luck of the Irish has held Notre Dame afloat on top of the Big East for the past five out of six years. But UM has every intention of bringing them down when they arrive tonight for their first ever bout with the fired up Hurricanes. The battle begins at 7 p.m. in the Knight Sports Complex.
With eight players over six feet tall, the Fighting Irish (21-5 overall, 11-0 in the Big East) come into the game with a natural advantage. This height helped them tower over opponents to grab the top spot in the conference, posting 43 straight Big East wins.
Miami (22-4 overall, 8-3 in Big East), currently tied with Virginia Tech for second place in the conference, doesn’t seem to be fazed.
“We’re ready to get out there and show Notre Dame that we’re just as good as them and that we can get into the Big East tournament,” said sophomore setter Mallorey James.
James is first in the Big East in assists, averaging 13.55 per game.
The Irish lead the conference in hitting percentage, with .293. The Hurricanes are second, with .280. Miami claims first place in the Big East for assists, averaging 14.89 per game, while Notre Dame takes third with 13.84. UM also leads the conference in kills (16.58 per game). The ‘Canes lead the Irish in service aces (1.58 per game) and digs (16.10 per game). Notre Dame is on top in blocks (3.74) and opponent hitting percentage (.161), while the Hurricanes are second in blocks (2.65) and fourth in opponent hitting percentage (.174).
“We’re going need to attack against a big block,” said head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. “It’s a great challenge for us.”
Notre Dame, which entered the Big East in volleyball in 1995, has been the conference champion for five of the last six years. UM joined in 2001, and is now hoping the break the streak, as the two teams have never met before.
The game is crucial in sending the ‘Canes to the Big East tournament. With a victory Friday night, they will advance to the championship.
“[We need] to keep up the high hitting percentage,” said senior outside hitter Marcela Gamarra. “It’s very important to win this game. We can work with them.”
Gamarra is currently third in the conference for kills, averaging 4.26 per game.
“If we go out and play our game, we’ll be fine,” said sophomore outside hitter Biz Tyson. “We know they’re ready for us, so we want to get ready for them.”
Miami’s resurrected program, having less experience in the conference than their opponents, presents a challenge.
“We are the new kids on the block,” said coach Welch. “[But] it’s great to finally play the cream of the crop and see where we stand.”
The game plan? The ‘Canes want to keep doing what they’ve been doing.
“If anything I think they’re thinking that we’re young and we’re new and it’s not going be that tough of a match for them,” said Tyson. “They’ll come in probably a little overconfident and we’ve got that advantage.”
Confidence is not something missing from the Miami agenda. Tyson, along with the rest of the Hurricanes, invite the challenge of the conference champion Irish with open arms.
“Welcome to Miami.”
You can reach Melissa Teich at firstname.lastname@example.org.