Experienced team attempts to improve

The University of Miami women’s volleyball team hosted a four-team spring tournament over the weekend at the James L. Knight Sports Complex on campus.

The Hurricanes welcomed Miami Dade College, St. Thomas University and Florida International University for a day of exhibition matches on Saturday.

“It’s great for experience,” head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said of exhibition contests. “The spring is where we really work on our techniques and individual skills.”

The matches consisted of a best two of three set format as opposed to the traditional regular season best three of five set match style.

The Hurricanes officially played two matches in the tournament, winning both.

In its first-round match, the Hurricanes beat MDC in dominating fashion, winning in straight sets 25-13 and 15-8.

Freshman middle blocker Emani Sims recorded eight kills in the match for the Hurricanes and freshman libero Ryan Shaffer did her part as well, notching double-digit digs in the contest.

Miami then went on to beat St. Thomas in three sets, 25-10, 20-25 and 15-10. Miami and FIU also squared off aduring the third round of the tournament, but the results of the match were not recorded as official for reasons that were not made clear.

The Hurricanes enjoyed tremendous performances from the veterans, including junior setter Katie Gallagher, who recorded over 30 assists on the day, and junior outside hitter Lane Carico, who was back in her familiar stomping grounds recording timely kills.

“Overall we’re making strides this spring,” Lantagne Welch said. “Our blocking is improving.”

In addition to the two victories on Saturday, the Hurricanes also had a solid showing in UCF’s Spring Fling tournament, going 8-2 against top-notch competition like the University of Florida and Florida State University.

Regardless of the team’s solid off-season performances, Lantagne Welch recognized that spring exhibition matches serve a specific purpose, one very different from regular season contests.

“It’s a great experience for our players,” she said. “You get to put all your players in and put them in different scenarios that they may not have experienced before and see how they handle it without the pressure of the result mattering.”

Miami enjoyed a very successful 2010 campaign. The team reached the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season, losing a tough five-set match to Indiana in the first round of the tournament.

It was the third time that Lantagne Welch led a Hurricane team to the NCAA tournament since bringing volleyball back to the University of Miami in 2001.

Adam Berger may be contacted at aberger@themiamihurricane.com