Miami made the NCAA tournament – that is, Miami of Ohio made the NCAA tournament.
The University of Miami women’s volleyball team (26-6, 14-6) enjoyed its best season since it switched conferences from the Big East to the ACC in 2004. The team finished tied for third place in the ACC after the squad was predicted to finish ninth in preseason polls.
Unfortunately, a 12-game turnaround from last season was not enough to propel the Hurricanes into the NCAA tournament, leaving the team without a tournament appearance since its Sweet 16 run in 2002.
The Canes were left out of the field of 64 that saw three ACC teams (North Carolina, Duke and Clemson) make it to the post season tournament.
Due to the fact that there is no ACC tournament, UNC received an automatic bid for finishing first in the ACC, while Duke and Clemson received at-large bids.
“Watching [the selection show] was extremely disappointing,” eighth-year head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “We feel it was wrong that we were left out. The more we look at the numbers, the more we deserve to be in the tournament. We were 5-2 against teams in the field.”
Lantagne Welch is referring to the fact the Miami swept the Blue Devils (24-8, 15-5) in the season series and split with the Tigers (22-9, 16-6) and Tar Heels (21-10, 15-5). UM also beat the University of San Francisco (22-7, 11-3), who received an at-large bid. San Francisco suffered their only home loss of the season to the Hurricanes.
Despite this disappointment, the Orange and Green should be proud of all they accomplished. Lantagne Welch was named ACC Coach of the Year and their 26 wins this year is the most since 2002.
“I credit my entire staff and players,” Welch said. “Everyone worked so hard and remained determined and focused.”
Freshman phenom Lane Carico was named 2008 ACC Freshman of the Year. Carico led the team in kills and service aces while finishing second on the team in digs. She finished the season with a team-best 16 double-doubles. Carico was also named to the All-ACC Freshman Team and earned second team All-ACC honors.
“I felt really honored to get the award,” Carico said. “I could not have done it without my teammates and coaching.”
Accompanying Carico on the second team All-ACC squad are junior outside hitter Genny Mayhew and senior middle blocker Angelica Elis. Mayhew was a dominant hitter and collected the second most kills on the team while Ellis led the team in hitting percentage.
Miami has built a solid foundation and put itself on the map after this successful season. The Canes went 12-1 at the Knights Sports Complex this year and won three non-conference tournaments.
Carico, though frustrated with the selection committee, realizes that the Hurricanes have a bright future ahead of them.
“I feel the committee underestimated us,” Carico said. “We are a really good team and I was in disbelief we did not make it. As soon as I saw Clemson was selected I knew we weren’t going to be chosen because there was no way the committee was taking four teams from the ACC. But I do feel we will be just as good, if not better, next year.”
Despite the fact that Miami and Clemson had similar RPIs and records, Clemson probably got the nod because they have proven themselves, as they are a perennial top echelon team in the ACC.
This season, though, is a stepping stone for Miami; this is a building block for the future.
“We have the core group of our team coming back next year, and we gained a lot of confidence and experience this year,” Lantagne Welch said. “We will remain focused and competitive and are striving to get into the tournament.”