Not just football: Fall athletics include soccer, volleyball, cross country

Junior Maria Jakobsdottir scores the second goal of the game for Miami in a win over Florida International University on Sunday, March 14 at Cobb Stadium in Coral Gables. Jakonsdottir is a key returning member of the UM women's soccer team.
Junior Maria Jakobsdottir scores the second goal of the game for Miami in a win over Florida International University on Sunday, March 14 at Cobb Stadium in Coral Gables. Jakonsdottir is a key returning member of the UM women’s soccer team. Photo credit: Josh Halper

With COVID-19 protocols and regulations winding down, fans can expect fall sports teams to resume their normal activities. Here’s what to expect from women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country.

Women’s soccer

For the women’s soccer team, that means looking to improve on its 1-11-1 record from last season. With the departure of senior forward Tia Dupont, the Canes are looking for a new leader on the offensive side of the field. Rising sophomore Mia Atrio is one of many young players expected to play a more active role. Last season the forward appeared in 12 games but only started five. However, Atrio had one of the highest shot attempts on the roster, taking seven total with three of those shots being on goal.

On the back-end of the field, Canes fans can expect to see veteran goalkeepers Tyler Speaks and Melissa Dagenais leading the defense. Last season the two had a healthy dose of competition, sharing the role as a starter. Speaks appeared in 10 games for the Canes, starting nine of them and accounting for 40 saves. Dagenais appeared in four games, starting three and accounting for 20 saves.

With three months off from the end of the spring season to the start of the fall season, head coach Sarah Barnes said she hopes her players will take advantage of the time off to prepare for the new season.

“For them, it’s what they do when they’re away from us,” Barnes said. “They’ve gotta make sure that they’re committed to the fitness side of things; they have to make sure that they’re technically improving, they’re watching the game and improving tactically.”

Volleyball

Coming off an inaugural spring season, the women’s volleyball team and head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara will welcome eight freshmen this fall. The team played in the fall and the spring last season, finishing with an 11-7 record with wins over the University of North Carolina, Duke and rival Florida State.

Gandara lauded his players for their effort all season long.

“It was a group effort this whole season with the next-man up mentality,” Gandara said. “It was a matter of our players understanding new concepts.

Freshmen Yaidaliz Rosado and Nyah Anderson joined the team for the spring season but didn’t appear in any matches. Six other freshmen will join them this fall, including high school standout Hanna Bissler. Also joining the team is Ashley Carr, Kendall Lukachek, Alanys Viera, McKayla Vincent and Peyman Yardimci.

While the departures of seniors Elizaveta Lukianova and Janet Kalaniuvalu, who both received All-East Coast Region honors, will leave a gap in the team’s rosters, fans can expect rising juniors Savannah Vach and Janice Leao to play a more active leadership role.

Vach currently ranks sixth in career assists at Miami and in eight matches last season had 378 assists, five aces, 19 blocks and eight kills. Leao was at the front of last season’s sweep of FSU, leading the way with 11 kills, two aces and six blocks.

Cross country

The men and women’s cross country teams are looking to improve this season after both teams placed 15th in the ACC championships. After breaking into Miami’s top-10 all-time list last season in the 6K, senior Emma Langlois will be returning for a final year while obtaining her masters in health administration.

Additionally, retuners Daphnee Lavassas and Sierra Oliveira will look to build off last season’s late success. After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed her initial freshman season, Lavassas broke into Miami’s all-time top-10 6K list in her first meet. Oliveira is coming off a strong outdoor track season where she ran a 400 meter time of 54.75 and debuted in Miami’s 4×400 meter relay.

On the men’s side, rising junior Andrew Madden will be making his return after leading the Canes for much of last season. Madden currently ranks ninth in program history in the 8K and was the first Cane to break into the top-10 list since 2017.