Miami took to the court at Ocean Bank Convocation Center at Florida International University Friday morning, kicking off the season with its first match against Tarleton State University in the FIU Invitational. While the two teams remained close throughout most of the match, Miami proved to have the winning edge when it mattered most.
“We received serves at an elite level and were able to keep our attack errors down. All in all, I’m really pleased,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said.
During the first set, neither team was able to hold a significant advantage over the other. The score margin was never greater than three as both teams exchanged points back and forth on the hardwood. With the score at 20 apiece, Miami called a timeout. This proved a good decision as the Canes went on a 5-3 run to close out the first set 25-23 and escape with a win in the opener after 13 game ties.
Junior setter Savannah Vach led all players on the court with 14 assists, while redshirt sophomore outside hitter Angela Grieve, junior outside hitter Kennedy Prince, and graduate outside hitter Janet Kalaniuvalu provided a balanced offensive attack, combining for 13 kills.
While the second set was close in its initial stages, the Canes rifled off a flurry of points the deeper the set went. With the Canes and Texans tied at 9-9, Miami went on an 11-4 run to blow the game wide open. This brought the score to 20-13 as Miami put its finishing touches on another set victory, which ended shortly afterwards by a final score of 25-18.
Much improved from their first set in which they tallied a .273 hitting percentage, Miami’s 19 kills in 42 attempts resulted in a match-high .357 hitting percentage. On the defensive end, Miami kept Tarleton State at a .184 hitting percentage, limiting them to 12 kills on 38 attempts and forcing the Texans to commit five errors.
With one set remaining between the Hurricanes and victory, the ladies got out to an early edge and maintained a slim lead through the halfway point. Much like the previous set, the Hurricanes started pulling ahead to find themselves one point away at 24-19. However, Tarleton State was unrelenting and cut the deficit to one before an attack error from Tarleton State’s Lauren Kelsey gave Miami the 25-23 win.
On the day, Vach paced the team with 34 assists, while Grieve registered 12 kills and senior defensive specialist Priscilla Hernandez posted a team-high 17 digs. Two Miami freshmen, Peyman Yardimci and Hanna Bissler, also had encouraging debuts. Yardmici recorded a double-double with 10 kills and 12 assists and Bissler recorded 12 digs.
“The first one is always unique. There is a sense of wonder, of excitement, of doubt, of fear. It’s always heightened, no matter how much you want to treat it like the rest of them,” Gandara said. “The goal was to test some things – concepts, lineups, stuff like that. We accomplished that and we were able to win, which is the ultimate goal.”
As a team, Miami boasted a large disparity in kills at 51-31, in addition to posting a much higher overall hitting percentage at .285 compared to Tarleton State’s .194. UM also out-assisted the Texans 44-29, reflecting Vach’s dominant presence on the offensive side.
With one win under their belt, the Canes look to continue their winning ways Saturday afternoon when they take on FIU at 4 p.m.