Volleyball prepares for first ACC game vs. FSU

It’s been a strange start to the season for the women’s volleyball team, as it has had two hurricanes ruin two prospective tournaments. First, Hurricane Frances put a stop to what was supposed to be, oddly enough, the Hurricane Invitational held at the Knight Sports Complex, and then Hurricane Ivan forced the ‘Canes to change their travel plans as they headed to Southern Methodist University in Dallas instead of Louisiana State University. Either way, Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch believes the tournaments helped the team.

“They were great for us, because I feel that we learned a lot about ourselves,” Lantagne Welch said. “We also were able to get better each time out as we were able to make some improvements.”

The Hurricanes are now 4-3 after taking two of three matches at the SMU tournament last weekend. The weekend before, they traveled to Los Angeles to take part in the Loyola-Marymount tournament, where they were able to salvage the last match against Cincinnati.

Lantagne Welch said she believes the team could be better if it weren’t for Hurricane Frances.

“We hoped to be a little bit better at this point,” Lantagne Welch said. “It hurt to lose that one tournament to the hurricane because we lost a lot of early matches because of it.”

One bright spot so far this season has been the play of red shirt freshman Ciara Michel. Last week against SMU, Michel went 11-for-14 with only one error in the Hurricanes’ 3-0 win. The 6’4″ Miami native also accounted for 13 of Miami’s 77 points on the day.

“Ciara’s doing a great job for us, considering she’s only a freshman,” Lantagne Welch said. “When we can get her going offensively, it really helps the rest of our team be very effective.”

The Hurricanes will finally conclude the tournament swing and begin ACC play this week. Next up on the schedule is Florida State, not a bad match-up for their inaugural match in the ACC. The match takes place tonight at 7 p.m. at the Knight Sports Complex. The Seminoles are off to a good start, as they have a 7-3 record through their first 10 matches. Lantagne Welch feels the Hurricanes will show up to play tonight.

“It’s a huge rivalry between Florida State and us obviously so we will definitely be motivated,” Lantagne Welch said. “They have a lot of players back from last year, so we will know a little bit of what to expect, but we need to worry more about our side of the court and our play. If we handle the ball well then we have a great shot at winning.”

Tonight’s match is the first of many ACC matches this year. Besides a couple of matches against local teams like FAU and South Florida, Miami will be facing one of the best women’s volleyball conferences in the nation from here on out.

“The ACC is a very strong conference from top to bottom, as it is much different from what we saw in the Big East,” Lantagne Welch said. “We’ll be tested more frequently night in and night out as we can’t afford to have an off night against these teams.”

Douglas Kroll can be contacted at d.kroll@umiami.ed