The 2009 season was very successful for the University of Miami volleyball team.
The year included a trip to the NCAA tournament, only the second time in the history of the young program that a team had accomplished the feat.
Fast forward to 2010 and Miami has seven new players on its roster and the hefty task of returning to the big dance for a second consecutive year.
So far, coach Nicole Lantagne Welch’s new look squad has responded well to the challenge.
Miami currently holds a 15-5 record overall with a 5-4 record in ACC play.
There is room for improvement but there is no doubt that the Hurricanes are playing volleyball at a high level.
Freshmen Alex Johnson, Taylor Hollins and Ryan Shaffer have held their own. Playing three freshmen on a regular basis is a scary proposition, but the three newcomers have arguably made Miami a more balanced team.
The veteran players are also playing well.
Junior outside hitter Lane Carico continues to perform at a high level in her first official season as an upperclassman.
Redshirt junior Katie Gallagher has been superb in her return to setting duties after missing most of last season with injuries.
The contributions have come from all over the roster, not just from one or two players.
This isn’t to say that Miami hasn’t faced some adversity so far this season.
In one notable rough stretch, the team traveled to North Carolina to face UNC and N.C. State.
The Hurricanes didn’t win a single set the entire weekend and returned home the following Friday night and lost to Georgia Tech.
Since then, Miami has gotten back on track, beating Maryland and Boston College during a recent road trip.
Miami’s offense can be overpowering. It’s the defensive play, however, that has caused the most problems for the Hurricanes.
To compensate for the loss of Cassie Loessberg to graduation, Lantagne Welch has tried implementing a libero by committee system, which at times has worked.
At other times, however, the system hasn’t worked and it’s this lack of consistency from libero that is the Achilles’ heal for Miami.
Without a steady flow of digs, the Hurricanes’ potent offense has struggled to set itself up on more than one occasion.
Despite this hole, the Hurricanes are nevertheless a good team and very hard to stop when they are clicking on all cylinders.
Miami has 15 wins with 11 matches left to play. The team won 18 contests all of last season, and made it to the NCAA tournament.
Nothing guarantees a return to the tournament, but the Hurricanes are in good shape.
Adam Berger may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org