Hurricanes drop 3-1 decision to Louisville, sweep UNC 3-0 to close out regular season

Miami sophomore setter Savannah Vach (1) sets the balls during Miami's match against the University of North Carolina on April 3 at the Knight Sports Complex.
Miami sophomore setter Savannah Vach (1) sets the balls during Miami's match against the University of North Carolina on April 3 at the Knight Sports Complex. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

In its final two-game set of the season, Miami returned to the Knights Sports Complex to finish their 2020-2021 campaign where it all started. Going into Thursday’s contest versus the Louisville Cardinals, the season was shaping up to be a vastly improved one compared to 2019.

The Hurricanes entered the match with an overall record of 10-6 between the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 seasons, matching their win total from 2019 despite having played in 10 fewer games. Miami also took its game to the next level versus ACC opponents, improving its conference record from 6-12 to 9-6.

When No. 13 Louisville made their way to Coral Gables, the Canes had a chance to continue following that trend versus a ranked opponent, but they dropped the match by a decisive 3-1 decision.

However, if there has been anything that has characterized the Hurricanes’ all throughout the season, it has been resiliency. On Saturday afternoon, Miami took the court for its final match of the regular season and swept the University of North Carolina Tar Heels 3-0.

Below is a recap of Miami’s sprint to the finish line in what has proven to be an encouraging bounce-back season for the volleyball program.

Miami attempts to deflect a UNC kill attempt during the match on April 3 at the Knight Sports Complex. Miami won the match 3-1.
Miami attempts to deflect a UNC kill attempt during the match on April 3 at the Knight Sports Complex. Miami swept the match 3-0. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Match 1: Elizaveta Lukianova’s 18 kills not enough as Louisville overpowers Miami on the defensive end of the floor

The Louisville Cardinals spoiled the Hurricanes return to Coral Gables on Thursday with an impressive defensive performance and dominant match win.

On the match, they held the Hurricanes to a collective hitting percentage of .127, while posting a .276 hitting percentage of their own to bulldoze through the Miami defense.

Right out of the gates, the Cardinals got their offense rolling with a 6-1 run, heavily backed by outsider hitter Anna DeBeer’s three early kills. The Hurricanes were able to rally back and bring the game within one point at 10-9, but they were never able to surmount the deficit and take a lead.

From that point, the Cardinals were in the driver’s seat and took the game by storm, routing the Hurricanes with a 15-3 scoring run to shut the door on the opening set.

Louisville ended the set with a .391 hitting percentage, drastically higher than Miami’s mark of .031, and DeBeer paced the team with five kills and five blocks. On Miami’s end, Angela Grieve and Lukianova’s eight combined kills accounted for the bulk of the Hurricanes’ 12 points, but seven errors on Miami’s end put them away early.

The Canes bounced back in the second set, narrowly defeating the Cardinals in a well-contested battle by a score of 25-23. After multiple ties and lead changes, Lukianova’s six-kill set paved the way for Miami to even the match score versus Louisville.

The Hurricanes and Cardinals kept the fight within reach once more in the third set, but Miami wasn’t able to hold on and claim a lead late in the set. Both teams posted hitting percentages of .195, but Louisville outside hitter Nena Mbonu’s six-kill barrage was more than enough to tally another win for the Cardinals.

In the final set, the fatigued Hurricanes struggled offensively, and the Cardinals capitalized on the opportunity to secure a blowout match win. Once leading by as many as 11 points, Louisville claimed the fourth set by a score of 25-16, posting a .250 hitting percentage but restraining the Canes to a match-low hitting percentage of -.067. Miami only recorded eight kills while committing 10 errors on 30 attempts.

The Hurricanes cheer after winning a point during their match against the UNC Tar Heels on April 3. It was the last match of the spring season for Miami.
The Hurricanes cheer after winning a point during their match against the UNC Tar Heels on April 3. It was the last match of the spring season for Miami. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Match 2: Three Canes post double-digit kills in sweep over UNC

Miami’s struggles versus the Cardinals were seemingly non-existent in the regular season finale versus the UNC Tar Heels as the Canes dominated the offensive end of the floor Saturday afternoon.

After being quieted versus Louisville, the Hurricanes made a statement versus UNC, posting a hitting percentage of .318 to shut out the Tar Heels. Miami pounced on UNC without any reservation despite using only an eight-player squad, and they proceeded to register 46 kills across the match’s three sets.

In the opening set, the Hurricanes’ offense was off to the races from the get-go. They established a lead early and never let up, leading by as many as eight points.

Janet Kalaniuvalu’s six kills on the set led both teams, and her final one scored the match point for the Hurricanes, allowing them to secure a set win by a score of 25-19.

Throughout the second set, the Tar Heels were able to fight off the Hurricanes much more effectively than in the match opener. At one point, UNC led 11-7, but the Canes rallied back to even the score at 12-12. From that point forward, the set was Miami’s to lose. Backed by three attack errors from the Tar Heels and two kills from Lukianova, the Hurricanes embarked on a 6-0 run to widen the score to 18-12.

Despite UNC’s valiant efforts to narrow the deficit, they ultimately fell once more 25-19. On the set, Kalaniuvalu and Grieve each added four kills to their offensive stat lines, but Miami’s defensive prowess allowed them to cruise to victory. The Canes held the Tar Heels to a match-low hitting percentage of .095 and recorded six blocks en route to the set win.

The match finale was easily the most tightly-fought, with UM and UNC exchanging points back and forth the entire set. The score remained within a couple of points up until a 19-19 tie late in the set, but the Canes seized their chance when they needed to most. Miami went on a 6-2 run to end the set and earn a 25-21 win.

In the third set, Lukianova added seven of her 14 total match kills to her line. Grieve recorded Miami’s only double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs, and Savannah Vach paced the team with 34 assists.

“I’m just so proud of this group. Under the circumstances that we were in, they had the ability to move on from one point to the next, one match to the next and improve in every aspect,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “They surpassed so many different expectations this season and I think they are proud of what they accomplished this season.”