Women’s volleyball looks to finish strong

On a diverse team where momentum is the name of the game, each Hurricane brings to the table a specialty that together advances the group as a whole. In its hopes for a first National Championship as a comeback program, the new millennium volleyball team continues to have its ups and downs. Momentum is on the upswing as the ‘Canes head toward their final regular season match.

Freshman middle blocker Francheska Savage has exploded in her first season of play, and currently leads UM with a .331 hitting percentage. She is fifth in the Big East in that category.

“I’m proud to be a Hurricane,” said Savage. “I’m very fortunate to be where I am at right now…Besides school, [volleyball] is everything right now.”

In just her first season at Miami, she is helping to lead her and her teammates to where they want to be.

“I visited here and Central Florida, and I think I made the right choice,” she said. “I just liked the group of girls and the coaching staff was excellent.”

She played club volleyball during her last two years in high school, claiming it prepared her for the next level. Coming from Fort Myers High School on the west coast of the state, she finds UM’s program to have a much faster pace.

“You don’t have time to sit down and relax, you just keep going.”

Savage was a red-shirt freshman last year and thus saw no action against opponents, but her preparation for four more years of eligibility grew during that time.

“I’m happy I finally get to play, ’cause it seemed like in practice I’d be working hard, but I knew I wasn’t going to play. Now I think I have something extra to work for,” she said.

Middle blocker Karla Johnson had a career-best 10 blocks against Syracuse on Friday, while outside hitter Leyre Santaella Sante had 21 kills, the most of the season thus far.

After falling to a No. 4 Nebraska team at the NCAA Tournament last December, the ‘Canes are fired up in their desire to return, this time with higher expectations. Now sitting in the number three spot in the Big East, they must make every moment of their next (and final regular season) match against Virginia Tech count.

Currently, Notre Dame has the top spot in the conference for blocks with an average of 3.84 and opponent hitting percentage (.136). St. John’s leads the Big East in hitting percentage (.257), with Miami and Pitt both close behind at .256. The Hurricanes are second in kills averaging 16.42 per game. Miami holds the number two slot for assists (15 per game) and kills (16.42 per game). Individually, libero Jamie Grass is fourth in digs with 3.76 per game.

Last season the ‘Canes finished behind Notre Dame in the Big East in the regular season, and subsequently defeated Duke and Wisconsin to advance to the NCAA Regional Semifinal. The team is in just its second (and final) season of Big East play, as it moves into the Atlantic Coast Conference next year with the rest of the UM Athletic Program.

With more time left on the court before the end of the season, the ‘Canes are eager to leave their mark as a Big East team.

Melissa Teich can be reached at melissateich@hotmail.com.