After avenging a regular season loss to Virginia Tech Saturday in the semifinal round of the Big East Conference Championship, the University of Miami volleyball team fell 3-1 to perennial Big East powerhouse Notre Dame Sunday in Fitzgerald Field House on the University of Pittsburgh campus.
Seeded number one in the tournament, Notre Dame has won six of the last seven Big East Conference Championships since it joined the league in 1995. The Hurricanes, seeded third in the tournament, competed in their first season of conference play in 2002.
The Irish won the first two matches 30-19 and 31-29, before letting the third slip 30-27. Notre Dame finally took the fourth 30-19.
Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch thought that some of the Hurricanes’ problems could be accounted for by the team’s youth and inexperience.
“This was our first time in a championship match and there’s a learning curve for that,” the second-year coach said. She added that the team also played conservatively in the first game.
“We came out a little nervous and we played not to lose,” she said.
November 15 in the Knight Sports Complex, the Hurricanes snapped a 46-match regular season win streak the Irish had extended over conference teams.
In the first game, the Hurricanes struggled to contain Notre Dame’s powerful front line, especially First Team All Conference player Emily Loomis, who amassed nine kills and a whopping .818 hitting percentage. Overall, Notre Dame generated a .616 team hitting percentage in the first game, winning 30-19.
The Irish also contained the Hurricanes’ Big East Player of the Year, Valeria Tipiana (Lima, Peru), holding the right side hitter to one kill in the first game.
The Hurricanes rebounded with improved defense in the second game, confining the Irish to just .170 team hitting percentage, but struggled to establish themselves on offense. Notre Dame also continued to successfully defend Tipiana.
A bright spot for UM during the first two games was outside hitter Biz Tyson, who struck for nine kills and a .563 hitting percentage.
“Biz played great,” Lantagne Welch said. “She was brought her ‘A-game’ and she was an inspiration.”
The Hurricanes took their first lead of the afternoon in the third game, going up 2-0 before the Irish could respond. Both teams challenged for the lead throughout, with Notre Dame holding the majority of scant advantages.
Finally, a court-length spike by Marcela Gamarra (Lima, Peru) and then an ace served by reserve player Kaitlin Kozak (Huntingdon, Pa.) opened up an 18-15 lead for the Hurricanes. Notre Dame retaliated, drawing to within one point on a number of occasions, but UM eventually sealed the game 30-27.
The Irish clamped down in the fourth game, however, storming out to a convincing 8-0 lead before UM could so much as respond. Notre Dame controlled play through much of the final game, eventually winning 30-19.
With a second-place finish in the conference championship and a 24-4 overall record that includes a number of quality wins, the Hurricanes hope to receive an at large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
UM CLAIMS TWO CONFERENCE AWARDS
The University of Miami volleyball team earned two regular season awards announced at the pre-championship banquet on Friday night. Sophomore outside hitter Valeria Tipiana was named Big East Player of the Year, while sophomore setter Mallorey James earned Setter of the Year honors.
Tipiana helped lead Miami to a 10-3 conference record (22-4 overall) in its first season in conference play. She led the Hurricanes in hitting percentage (.336), second on the team in kills (4.19 per game) and third in digs (2.69) and blocks (0.86). Additionally, Tipiana ranks second in conference matches with 4.83 kills and fifth in hitting at .332.
James helped Miami earn its title as the conference’s best hitting team. She averaged 14.73 assists in conference play and 13.53 overall to lead the Big East. The Hurricanes led the Big East in hitting (.268), kills (16.55) and assists (14.86). Miami also ranked 19th in kills and 21st in assists in the NCAA.
Additionally, the Hurricanes took three of the five spots in the All-Big East First Team, including senior outside hitter Marcela Gamarra, James and Tipiana.
Gamarra was vital to Miami’s success this season as she led the team in kills averaging 4.23 per game. She also ranks second in digs (3.07 per game) and third in attack percentage (.281).
Information provided by the UM Sports Information Department.