‘Canes to take on No. 9 Louisville at home

The women’s volleyball team will face its toughest challenge to date when it plays No. 9 Louisville in the Orange and Green Challenge on Saturday at the Knight Sports Complex.

The tournament begins with Miami against Sacramento State at 5 p.m. on Friday and continues with the Hurricanes battling both Michigan State and Louisville on Saturday.

“We work a lot on our game,” Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “We try to work in a little bit on each of the opponents we are going to face, without overwhelming them too much.”

To defeat a top ranked opponent, there are several areas the team needs to improve.

“We are really working on our servicing, passing and our handling of the ball,” Lantagne Welch. “Also our blocking and defense; those are the two big areas we are trying to make strides on.”

Senior Karla Johnson said she agrees with Lantagne Welch that the Hurricanes must get better at passing.

“As long as we pass well we will be fine,” Johnson said. “It opens up more options for the rest of the team.”

This year, players like Johnson Francheska Savage and Jill Robinson get most of the attention, but Lantagne Welch said the reserves have played a critical role in the Hurricanes’ 5-0 start.

“We know that everyone is not going to play a perfect match every night,” Lantagne Welch said. “If somebody is a little off and we can put somebody in to relieve that pressure and play at their potential, then that just makes us stronger.”

Johnson said the team seems to be very upbeat to begin the season, with teammates having fun with each other in a much looser environment.

“We all get along very well,” Johnson said. “It is a fun atmosphere, more relaxed and less stressed out this year, especially in game fives.”

Five-game matches were tough on the Hurricanes last year, as they went 2-5 in those situations. The ‘Canes are 2-0 in matches that went the distance this season.

“I think our team has handled pressure well when we have gotten into tight matches. We’ve played very confidently,” Lantagne Welch said.

Lantagne Welch said she hopes this weekend will bring the team closer to its ultimate goal.

“We want to challenge to win the ACC Championship,” Lantagne Welch said. “We have the potential to put it all together. When we put it all together we are outstanding, but there are some times that we break down. As long as we keep working we’ll get better each day.”

Denis Brown can be contacted at dbrown@umsis.miami.edu.