The Miami Hurricanes’ historic start on the volleyball courts came to an end Thursday morning, as the team lost its first match of the season to in-state foe Central Florida by a narrow match score of 3-2.
Miami (7-1) entered the Sunshine State Classic in Boca Raton, Florida as winners of 21 out of 22 sets played this season, and the team looked to keep its unbeaten run ahead of conference play. UCF (5-5) showed its resilience throughout the early contest to pull off the upset.
This was a match that was won at the net, and UCF was simply the better team in that aspect. The Knights out-blocked Miami 16-8 in the match, including three crucial blocks in the first set that were part of a 6-0 run to dismiss a strong Hurricanes start.
Some Central Florida errors at the end of the set made things interesting, but outside hitters McKenna Melville and Claudia Dillon combined for four of the last six points scored by UCF, with the Knights taking the first set, 25-23.
Similar to the first set, UCF was able to control the middle portions of the second set, and completely dominated the Canes. After being knotted at seven points each, the Knights would go on to score 13 of the next 15 points, capped off by a 7-0 run to cruise to a 25-11 win in set two.
For the first time all season, Miami head coach José “Keno” Gandara’s team had its backs against the wall. This threat, however, never seemed to phase the Hurricanes.
Miami faced two huge deficits in the third set, but kept its composure both times. Setter Savannah Vach is more used to assisting her teammates, but took matters into her own hands on Thursday, recording five kills in seven rallies to boost Miami to a narrow 26-24 win in set 3.
Vach had entered Thursday with just seven kills in seven games, but had seven kills in the third set alone, a huge momentum swing for the Canes to crawl Miami within two sets of a victory. Vach finished the match with a new career-high 16 kills.
With Vach’s offensive boost, Miami swarmed UCF in the fourth set, hanging on to win 25-22 to keep their hopes of an unbeaten record alive. UM totaled seven first ball kills in the fourth set, including three from true freshman Peyman Yardimci. The Turkish outside hitter finished the match with 15 kills, tying her career-high from September 5th’s win over USF.
The comeback came up just short in the first fifth set of the season for UM, losing 15-9. The Knights came out strongest in that set, with the Hurricanes only scoring five of their nine points in the final frame, assisted by four UCF errors.
While the loss was finally able to answer whether the Canes volleyball team was human or not, the loss for Miami was committed to extremely short memory as Miami took the court Thursday evening against the FAU Owls (8-3) with a vengeance.
In this match, Miami reverted back to its old ways and swept FAU, improving to 8-1 on the season. Early in the contest, the Canes and the Owls kept things relatively close on the scoreboard. Once the score was tied at 12-12 apiece, the Hurricanes proceeded to go on an 8-1 run and secure a comfortable lead going into the later stages of the set.
As part of that run, freshman outside hitter Nyah Anderson registered four of her team-high nine kills in the match. With a 20-13 lead late in the match opener, ‘the Canes were able to score just enough to steal the match and thwart a comeback from FAU that saw the Owls come within five points of a tie.
Much like the opener, the second set saw UM and FAU dual competitively on the court, keeping the score within a handful of points all throughout. However, with the score tied at 10-10, the Miami offense busted out of its cage and blew the game wide open.
A 6-0 run by the Canes, led by Anderson’s two kills, put Miami in a position to do some damage late in the set, and they did just that. A strong serving sequence from Peyman Yardimci and a pair of kills from Angela Grieve paved the way towards Miami’s second set victory of the night and put the finishing touches on a 9-5 run that downed the Owls.
The match finale was much more contested, with the Hurricanes and Owls exchanging points back-and-forth and neither team intending to back down. With the score at 19-18 in favor of Miami, a 6-0 run catalyzed by two service aces from Priscilla Hernandez and two kills from Yardimci landed Miami the victory for good.
On the night, Miami dominated every aspect of the game, leading the Bulls in kills, aces, blocks assists and digs. While the 14 attack errors on the night are a subject of concern for the Canes, the team did more than enough on the offensive end of the court to secure a victory, including registering double-digit kills in all three matches.
With a morale-boosting bounce-back win under their belts, the Canes now look to escape with a series victory at the Sunshine State Classic when they take on the FGCU Eagles on Friday at 1:30 p.m.