Hurricanes continue unbeaten start with win over Texas State

Miami players celebrate scoring a point during their game versus UMBC in the Knight Sports Complex on Aug. 29, 2021.
Miami players celebrate scoring a point during their game versus UMBC in the Knight Sports Complex on Aug. 29, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Normal service resumed for Miami volleyball to open up the Bobcat Invitational, sweeping host Texas State by final set scores of 25-18, 25-22 and 25-22 at the Strahan Arena in San Marcos, Texas.

The Hurricanes (6-0) have now won 18 out of 19 sets this season, with their one blemish being a 25-23 loss in the third set of their 3-1 win over USF last weekend. Texas State (2-7) did their best to keep up, especially late, but Jose “Keno” Gandara’s team continued to show perfection on the court.

Going into the season, this looked to be one of the tougher non-conference matchups for UM. The Bobcats finished 31-9 in the shortened 2020 season, including a 15-1 record in the Sun Belt. They finished the year with ranked wins over No. 9 Coastal Carolina and No. 12 Baylor, before losing to Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament.

“This is going to be a battle,” Gandara said. “So much credit goes to Sean [Huiet] and that program – they’re a perennial NCAA tournament team and the environment they have here is incredible.”

The Canes came out prepared at the Strahan Center, pouncing on the Bobcats to win the first set by seven. After an early back-and-forth exchange of points, UM took advantage of consecutive Bobcat errors to stretch the lead out to 12-7. From there, Miami were able to flex its muscles to hold on to that margin, winning the first set 25-18.

Despite the 3-0 margin of victory for Miami, the game was a lot closer to call. The Hurricanes only had one more kill on the night, leading 44-43. Texas State committed 16 errors in the match. Half of which came in the second set, allowing the Canes to set a six-point lead halfway through the set. Miami middle blocker Janice Leao dominated, contributing a crucial early block to help the Hurricanes establish control.

“That’s as fine an attacking performance from the middle as I’ve ever seen,” Gandara said. “[Leao]’s still so young as a volleyball player, but I think we saw a glimpse of the world-class player she seems bound to become.”

From that lead on, the Hurricanes were challenged, but showed resilience. Texas State went on a five-point run in the middle of the second set to cut Miami’s lead to just one, but Miami was able to hold on to win the set 25-22.

The third set went the other way around, with Texas State establishing control early on a 5-0 start, but Leao and redshirt sophomore Angela Grieve stepped up with some crucial kills to secure Miami’s fifth sweep of the season.

Grieve and Leao finished with 13 kills each, tied for the most in the game. UM setter Savannah Vach recorded another double-double, logging 37 assists and 16 digs. Kennedy Prince also played a big role, leading the team in blocks for the first time in her career, denying the Bobcats four times.

It’ll be a quick turn-around for Miami, as they look to continue their winning ways Saturday afternoon.