Volleyball aiming for improvement in 2005

The women’s volleyball squad will spike into action next weekend at the Houston Tournament.

Houston is the first of three preseason tournament sites for UM before the Hurricanes begin their second regular season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After finishing 2004 at 17-9, the Hurricanes are ranked seventh in the ACC’s preseason poll.

“We definitely want to place higher than we are now,” said junior setter Jill Robinson. “Our goal is to place in the top two, and of course we want to go for first.”

The team has been working throughout the off-season to prepare for upcoming challenges and remedy errors that surfaced last season; errors that cost them important matches.

“We’re doing a lot of ball handling and passing. We feel confident when we’re having strong days, which will be a key for us,” Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “We have some high goals and we’re making a lot of strides in the gym right now.”

The ‘Canes are feeling more confident in the conference, with their first year of ACC matches completed. They will feel less uncertainty with the knowledge gained from experiences in 2004.

“We’ll be more familiar with the gyms and the styles of play, but at the same time, they’ll be more familiar with us,” Lantagne Welch said.

Last season, the team encountered challenges on the road, only managing a 6-5 record. The ‘Canes have been working on the weaknesses that prevented them from finishing the tight scoring matches.

Robinson said the Hurricanes were working toward developing a killer instinct that would help the squad dominate in the end of matches.

“Since we are playing double round robin, we have to stay focused in every game to the end,” Robinson said.

Valeria Tipiana will be greatly missed this year after graduating in the spring of 2005. The seasoned veteran was a crucial part of the successful squad and filling her shoes will not be an easy task.

“A sort of committee, I would say, will be used to replace Valeria. She’s not really a player that can just be replaced,” Lantagne Welch said. “Offensively, to shoulder the load she carried, I will be looking to Karla [Johnson] and [Francheska Savage].”

Lantagne Welch said she noticed improvements in several players, including Ashley Woods, a red shirt freshman at the outside hitter position, whose entire game has significantly matured throughout preseason practices.

“I’m really excited about this season because we have new [players] and a lot of people who didn’t see the court as much last year,” Robinson said. “It’s a different group of people and I’m looking forward to seeing how we work together.”

Stacey Arnold can be contacted at s.arnold@umiami.edu.