Volleyball prepares for Hurricane Invitational

After a fairly disappointing season last year, the women’s volleyball team is poised to reach new plateaus this season. The Hurricanes, who finished with a mediocre record of 16-14 in 2005, are focused on improving some of their weaker points from last season.

“We have to play to our potential at every match,” Francheska Savage, senior outside hitter, said. “Sometimes, we had difficulty playing at our level. We had a lot of 5-game matches that we lost, so finishing games was a problem.”

However, the team has already seen signs of improvement in the early stages of this season, and is beginning to realize the qualities they need to maintain in order to duplicate the wins from last year.

“We are quicker to react to certain circumstances,” Savage said. “Whereas last year it would take us a full match to change something, now it just clicks. When coach tells us to do something, we do it right away.”

Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said that she too has noticed some positives early this season.

“I feel that our blocking and defense have improved a lot from last year,” Lantagne Welch said. “Last year, we did a really good job of scoring when we had a good contact, and I think we’ve carried that over.”

Although their current record of 2-4 puts the Hurricanes in an early hole, the team has set goals of finishing within the top 3 in the ACC and making the NCAA Tournament, a goal which they saw slip away last season. But from a more psychological viewpoint, the team’s main objective is simply to get all the players to play up to their potential.

“One of our main goals is to get the most out of everybody and make big strides every day,” Lantagne Welch said. “We learned from last year. We let some things slip away.”

One of the biggest factors to winning will be the role experience plays on a team that features four seniors. Coach Lantagne Welch hopes to rely on that familiarity this weekend, as the ‘Canes host the Hurricane Invitational, which features three games in two days.

“This team is much older, so we do have higher expectations,” Lantagne Welch said. They should have that much more experience, and their experience needs to show.”

As both an All-American Honorable Mention and an All-ACC Second Team selection last season, Savage said she has set a personal goal to make the All-ACC First Team this year. However, her personal quests never come before the expectations she has for the team.

“It makes you happy, but there’s more of a focus on the team,” Savage explained. “I want us to go to the NCAA [tournament] before I myself get accolades. What’s the good in me getting that if we don’t even make it?”

Joel Brown may be contacted at j.brown22@umiami.edu.