The brisk November weather didn’t affect the heat inside the Knight Sports Complex this weekend as the Hurricanes whipped through it, leaving both Notre Dame and Syracuse in their path of destruction. The win over the Orangemen clinched UM’s spot in the Big East Conference Championships.
On Friday, Miami (24-4, 9-3 in Big East play) slipped by the Irish (21-6, 11-1 in the Big East) in five games (30-25, 30-28, 25-30, 22-30, 15-7). Sophomore Valeria Tipiana led the team with 28 kills in front of an electrified crowd of 1,091. Sophomore Biz Tyson posted a team high four aces, and freshman Robin Lewullis had the most blocks with five.
“That was a huge, huge win for us and we were thrilled,” said head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. “It was an unbelievable match for us and it meant so much. We had to appreciate that win for a day and then get back into the gym and take care of a very steady and good Syracuse team.”
That they did. Senior Marcela Gamarra was honored Sunday before the game as the sole senior on the Hurricane team, which reappeared in 2001 after a 19 year hiatus. Gamarra transferred to UM from Miami-Dade Community College, where she received All-Southern Conference honors in 1999 and 2000. She had a team high 16 kills against Syracuse.
UM came into their last regular season match Sunday pumped from the Irish upset but ready to get down to business again. They pulled ahead early on and held a narrow lead through most of the first game. The Orangemen tied it at 23 during a Miami sluggish streak, but couldn’t finish the job. The ‘Canes pulled off a 30-16 victory.
“We had to be focused from the beginning because even though we won on Friday against Notre Dame, we knew that this match was really important for us to get into the Big East tournament,” said Tipiana. “We had to take it seriously.”
The ‘Canes found their footing in the second game. Syracuse struggled with blocking, but took advantage of Miami’s numerous net violations. They were not enough to secure a victory for the Orangemen, however, who came up short once again, 21-30.
“I never felt worried,” said Welch. “We just needed to play our game of volleyball and play with a lot of emotion to win the match.”
Tipiana posted 11 kills in the first two games, totaling 25 attacks. Freshman Robin Lewullis had the high hitting percentage (.364).
The Hurricanes looked more like a light breeze than a fierce storm in the early stages of game three, but they quickly picked up speed after an ace from sophomore Biz Tyson that tied the game at nine. A pivotal kill by freshman Karla Johnson continued the ‘Canes’ hot streak. Miami had the last word with a 30-24 Orangemen crush.
“I feel great,” said Gamarra. “I’m so excited for [the fact that we’re going to the tournament]. We are a good team and we have showed that we can play against very good teams.”
Welch intends to start preparing for the big event early this week.
“If you go to the championships, you go there to win,” she said.
The Big East tournament will be held on November 23 in Pittsburgh.
You can reach Melissa Teich at firstname.lastname@example.org.