Last year the University of Miami volleyball team finished with a solid overall record of 26-6. They narrowly missed receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which would have been a first since 2002.
This year the Hurricanes (9-6, 2-3) have already matched their loss total for all of last season. They currently stand at a mediocre 9-6 and have endured a handful of heartbreaking defeats.
To be clear, the Hurricanes are not playing bad volleyball. Overall, their play has been solid. Sophomore outside hitter Lane Carico is having another good year after her brilliant freshman campaign. She was just named ACC Player of the Week after her fantastic play last weekend in two thrilling five-set matches. Redshirt junior Lici McGee and sophomore Ali Becker have both had a positive impact in the front court.
The problem for Miami has been that, when a game needs to be closed out, they struggle. Twice already this year they have blown a match in which they led the contest 2-0. They are just 2-3 as a team in five set matches.
It’s a trend that the coaching staff is trying to fix, and surely a topic that was brought up during a 30-minute, closed-door locker room chat that followed a bad loss to Clemson.
This past Sunday against Georgia Tech, head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch’s words of “encouragement” seem to have resonated with her team.
The Hurricanes had a chance to close out the game in the fourth set, but lost a tough battle that went in to extra points. In the fifth set, a place that has troubled Miami all year, they prevailed in convincing fashion, winning the deciding frame 15-9.
Miami should be able to build upon the dramatic win and turn their season around. There is too much talent on this team to assume otherwise. A trip to the NCAA tournament is probably out of the question, but don’t tell that to these Hurricanes.
Moving forward Miami simply needs to be more consistent and get healthy in a hurry.
The orange and green have been without junior setter Katie Gallagher and senior outside hitter Genny Mayhew due to injury. Gallagher has missed seven games while Mayhew has missed four games.
Lantange Welch has not given a timetable for their returns, but the sooner they get that veteran presence back on to the court the better. Their leadership is irreplaceable and has certainly been missed.
The begin a four-game road trip tonight as they face Wake Forest at 7 p.m.
Adam Berger may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.