The Canes open up the 2008 season with three nonconference tournaments: the CenturyTel Premier Tournament in San Marcos, Texas; the Hurricane Invitational, here at the Knights Sports Complex; and the San Francisco Tournament in California.
Eighth-year head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch has posted winning records in five of her seven seasons. The Hurricanes return 11 letter winners and all but one starter from last season.
Although Miami retains the nucleus of its team, Miami does face this new season without middle blocker and arguably the team’s best player, Ciara Michel, who graduated. Michel led the team last year with 140 blocks and was second in points per game, averaging 3.25.
“Ciara had a great career for us,” Lantagne Welch said. “She was a tremendous blocker, but we have been working on our middles a lot in practice, so we are improving as much as possible.”
The Canes, though, do return a number of rising stars, including junior outside hitter Genny Mayhew and sophomore standout Katie Gallagher.
Mayhew was the 2007 team MVP and was named to the Preseason All-ACC team. She recorded a team-high 428 kills last season and posted double digits in kills in 26 of the team’s 31 matches.
“I feel really good for Genny to get that honor,” Lantagne Welch said. “She had a great sophomore year, and to see her get recognized by the coaches is something she definitely deserves.”
Although Mayhew is proud of the honor, she knows she still has to perform well on the court.
“[The honor] feels pretty good,” Mayhew said. “But it doesn’t mean a lot yet because it is preseason, and we still have to prove ourselves and I still have to prove myself.”
Gallagher was named to the 2007 ACC All-Freshman team and looks to have an even bigger year. She is a dominant server; last year she set a UM single season record with 67 aces.
Gallagher believes the team’s biggest asset is its team unity.
“We all get along, and we really are a team. We click well together,” she said.
The team, which is ranked ninth out of 12 teams in the ACC preseason poll, echoes Lantagne Welch’s sentiments when she says the goal of the season is to win the ACC title and go the NCAA tournament.