They just won’t quit. The Hurricane volleyball team will once again take the court after splitting matches and finishing second in the conference at the Big East Tournament two weeks ago. An at-large bid has landed them in the NCAATournament for the first time ever, as they will take on Duke tonight in a first-round match up. The Blue Devils finished their season third in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Hurricane sophomore outside hitter Valeria Tipiana was named Big East Player of the Year, while sophomore setter Mallorey James was given Big East Setter of the Year honors. Tipiana led the Hurricanes in hitting percentage, with .336. James was first in assists (13.53 per game). Both were named to the All-Big East First Team, along with Senior Marcela Gamarra.
Miami (25-5 overall, 10-3 in the Big East) advanced to the second round of the Big East tournament after defeating Virginia Tech 3-2 on November 23, but were shut down by Notre Dame 3-1 in the second round.
“[Beating Notre Dame at home] was such a good win, and that’s what put us in the Big East Championships,” said sophomore Jamie Grass. “So when we lost [at the tournament]I think it was hard because we had already beaten them, and we knew we could beat them again.”
This weekend’s tournament will christen the first ever meeting between Miami and Duke (24-9 overall, 11-5 in the ACC). The Devils faced a parallel situation to the ‘Canes’ in their conference, claiming a victory over Maryland in the first round of the ACC Tournament and then losing to Georgia Tech in the semi-finals.
Duke is sixth in the ACC with a hitting percentage of .232, fifth in assists (13.74 per game), second in service aces (1.67 per game), and fourth in kills (15.47 per game). On the defensive front they take number three in blocks (2.52 per game) and number two in digs (17.60 per game). Senior outside hitter Jill Sonne led the conference in service aces with .52 per game.
“They don’t do anything out of the ordinary that we haven’t seen against all the teams we’ve played this year,” said UM head coach Nicole Welch. “It’s pretty much just tuning up our play and worrying about Miami volleyball.”
Miami is on top of the Big East in assists (14.83 per game) and kills (16.45 per game). They placed second in hitting percentage (.261) and fifth in service aces with 1.55 per game. Defensively, the ‘Canes are fourth in blocks (2.5 per game) but are less impressive with their digs (16.28 per game), which left them in eighth place in that category. James leads the Big East in assists.
In the tournament win over Virginia Tech, Tipiana had 21 kills and 61 total attacks. Gamarra had the high hitting percentage (.349), while Grass posted an impressive 40 digs.
With a win over Duke, the ‘Canes will face the victor of Wisconsin vs. Alabama A+M. The Badgers are seeded 14th and host the four team tournament in Madison.
“There’s definitely a strong energy right now,” said Welch. “The players…are preparing to go to the tournament and win.”
Tonight’s match will mark Duke’s third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and their 10th of all time. The Blue Devils are 5-9 in all-time matches at the Tourney. UM faces them at five o’clock in Madison, Wisconsin.
You can reach Melissa Teich at firstname.lastname@example.org.