The University of Miami football team isn’t the only squad on campus that controls its own destiny.
If the women’s volleyball team wins its final three matches, it will clinch its first ACC title in school history and automatically earn a bid in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
Miami (24-5, 12-5) improved to 12-1 at the James L. Knight Sports Complex by winning two five-set thrillers over elite teams in the ACC, Clemson (19-9, 11-6) and Georgia Tech (18-9, 10-7).
“Volleyball is a crazy momentum sport,” head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “The games shifted momentum back and forth. We thought we had some games under control that we really didn’t. In the end, we just found a way to win and that is the bottom line. This group pulled together and found a way to win.”
With three games remaining, UM is tied for second with Duke (21-8, 12-5) and trails first-place North Carolina (19-9, 13-4) by one game. The Canes own the tiebreaker with Duke because they swept the Blue Devils in their season series.
On Friday night, the Hurricanes battled back from a two-sets-to-one deficit to best the Yellow Jackets, (25-15, 20-25, 27-29, 25-21), in front of 843, the largest home crowd of the season.
“Katie [Gallagher] was putting up great balls,” junior outside hitter Genny Mayhew said. “When she puts up balls like that, it’s hard not to score. She was doing an excellent job running the offense. It means a lot that my teammates trusted me, but I could not have done it alone.”
Gallagher, freshman Lane Carico and Mayhew all registered double-doubles.
Sunday afternoon’s five-set match (29-27, 10-25, 25-18, 18-25, 15-6) marked only the second time in program history that Miami beat the Tigers, a team predicted to win the ACC at the beginning of the year.
The last time the Canes beat Clemson was in September of 2005.
It was Senior Appreciation Day as the team honored Bridget Bomhack, Angelica Ellis and captain Ashley Woods.
Gallagher continued to orchestrate the offense as she tallied 56 assists, nine digs and six kills. Carico propelled the Canes to victory by posting 20 kills, 19 digs and two service aces.
A key to the match was in the first set, when the Hurricanes were unable to capitalize on three set point opportunities. The Tigers had a set point chance of their own, but were also unable to take advantage. Miami then won three consecutive points and took the set, 29-27.
There were 18 ties and nine lead changes in the first set.
“It was such a great weekend for this volleyball program,” Gallagher said. “We worked hard all week. People were sick and out of practice, but we just able to play together as a team. What you just saw was the real Hurricane volleyball team.”
A team predicted to finish ninth in the conference, Miami travels to Chapel Hill, N.C., on Thursday to face first-place North Carolina at 7 p.m. Last month, the Canes beat the Tar Heels in four sets.