‘Canes volleyball continues to rise

Certainly having only one senior and entering just the second season since the program’s restoration does not usually spell success, but those factors did not deter the Hurricanes volleyball team from having a ground-breaking season.
Victories have not been hard to find for coach Nicole Lantagne Welch and the ‘Canes since the volleyball program was reinstated two years ago. Miami enjoyed a remarkable 26 game-winning streak that began at the end of the 2001 season and carried over to last year. The Hurricanes also gained some national recognition by reaching the top 25 and advancing to postseason play during which the team fell to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in three games.
Over the past two years, Lantagne Welch accumulated a 44-12 record, including a 27-6 mark in 2002. Losing only six games all season is even more impressive considering the six freshmen and six sophomores on the Miami roster.
The Hurricanes were led by their sole senior, Marcela Gamarra, who finished first on the team with 1209 total attacks and 477 kills. Gamarra also elevated her game defensively, placing second behind only Jaime Grass in digs. Gamarra earned First-Team All-Big East honors with her outstanding numbers and her impact on the team.
“Marcela’s been tremendous for this program,” coach Lantagne Welch said. “She’s a great player and such a great person as well. Everyone on this team cares for her so much and have learned so much from her as well. She’s really brought experience and dedication and has been a complete person for this program.”
Gamarra was not alone, however, in anchoring the women’s volleyball team. Sophomores Valeria Tipiana and Mallorey James ended the year as members of the First-Team All-Big East squad, and provided much needed offense consistently throughout the season. Tipiana, Miami’s outside-hitter and the Big East Player of the Year, was second on the Hurricanes in kills, while Mallorey James guided the ‘Canes through the season by setting up the attacks. James proved herself to be an outstanding role player, earning the Setter of the Year award in the Big East. Her play was much of the reason why Miami ended the year leading the Big East in kills per game.
Defensively, Jamie Grass set the tone for the Hurricanes. Grass raised her level of play in her sophomore season. In 118 games, Grass recorded 499 digs, or 4.23 digs per game. The Hurricanes in total had five players averaging over two digs per game, which provided the team with a good defense to compliment the explosive offense.
The combination of young talent and solid coaching put Miami in the national spotlight in 2002. In the NCAA tournament, the Hurricanes earned victories over Duke and the 14-seed Wisconsin Badgers. Against Wisconsin, Miami had to go on the road in front of a hostile crowd to pull off the upset. Equally as impressive, the Hurricanes went 10-3 in the Big East, which was a deep and difficult conference as usual. Despite having only one senior, Miami proved itself to be a serious threat in NCAA volleyball.