Junior volleyball setter Savannah Vach is no stranger to accolades.
Before taking her talents to Coral Gables, the highly-recruited Vach was a decorated player in high school, collecting countless pieces of hardware, including being named the Florida Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018, the PrepVolleyball.com National High School Player of the Year and the Oviedo High School Most Valuable Player for three consecutive seasons.
Vach saw continued success soon after stepping on the Knight Sports Complex’s hardwood floor in 2019. She was given a Freshman of the Week award and was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) All-Freshman Team at the season’s end.
In 2020, Vach was named to the All-ACC Second Team and to the Preseason All-ACC team prior to this season. Despite having only played two full seasons with the Hurricanes, Miami’s superstar setter is already matching and breaking program records, and with every passing game, she grows closer to setting a new one. At the start of this season, she ranked sixth all-time in Miami history with 1,406 career assists.
For Vach, volleyball is a generational part of her bloodline. Her mother, Kimberly, played volleyball for the Stetson University Hatters and her older sister Sydney played a season at Harvard University. At the age of four, Savannah followed in her mother’s footsteps and began her journey with the sport she loves, fostering the competitive spirit she exhibits for the Hurricanes today.
“At that age it’s kind of like, you’re just there having fun with all of your friends,” Vach said. “But I probably started getting serious about volleyball around when I was eight years old.”
While the 5-foot-10 Winter Springs, Florida native has been at the heart of Miami’s offense at the setter position, Vach has played the outside and opposite hitter positions in her career. However, she stuck with setting for the central role she gets to play on the offense.
“Being able to be a part of every play is probably my favorite part,” Vach said. “I’m in control. I get to run the offense the way I want to run it and execute our game plans the way I think we should.”
Now, Miami is off to a scorching start to its season, posting a 9-1 record through their first ten matches and sweeping eight of its nine match wins. During that span, Vach has been the focal point of Miami’s offensive attack with 337 assists at an average of 10.21 assists per set. Despite her individual efforts, Vach attributes much of the team’s success to the strong chemistry they have on the court.
“I think being on a team of girls who are all super passionate about volleyball and want to get better every single day, we always come into the gym playing hard,” Vach said. “We’re all there to get better and it’s been paying off a lot this year so far.”
For Vach and defensive specialist Priscilla Hernandez, that chemistry extends beyond the boundaries of the hardwood and into Dunkin’ Donuts. Before every game, Vach and Hernandez bond over medium iced coffees with three creams, three sugars and three pumps of caramel. Then, the two share Monster energy drinks with the team.
Over the past two seasons, it appears that team bonding has translated into success on the court. In the 2019-2020 season, the Hurricanes posted a 10-16 overall record, going 6-12 versus ACC opponents. During the split 2020-2021 season, Miami’s overall and conference records were dramatically improved from the season prior; UM finished the year with an 11-7 record going 9-7 versus conference rivals.
With Vach commanding the offensive attack on the floor, Miami has tallied 81 more kills than its opponents and Vach has recorded nearly as many assists by herself as all of Miami’s opponents put together, which combine for 363 as of Friday night’s loss versus Louisville.
“I’m a bit of a broken record here, but Savannah is as good of a player as there is in the country,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said after Miami’s loss to UCF on Sept. 16. “Whatever credit she gets from us or from the outside, she deserves it and more. Any team with Savannah on it has a chance to win, so I’m very grateful that she’s a ‘Cane.”
Although getting recognized for her consistent, productive play has become routine, Vach sends the praise to her teammates.
“It’s weird because you get these awards for stuff that you’re used to doing in practice every day. It’s not like you are doing something different all of a sudden, you’re just getting noticed for it,” Vach said. “It feels really good to be noticed and get the recognition for all the hard work, but it’s really more of my team putting in the work. I’m just setting them the balls, they have to go and kill it.”
For Vach and the rest of the team, a good start — even a great start — is not enough. The team fell just short of qualifying for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament last year with the field reduced from 64 to 48 teams due to COVID-19 and they were unable to secure a spot and snap a short drought dating back to 2018, when the ‘Canes made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Despite a competitive schedule of ACC rivals on slate for the rest of the season, Vach and her teammates like their chances of making it far in 2021.
“I think if we continue to play how we’re playing, we have a really good shot. I think it’s a realistic goal for us and I’m super excited about it,” Vach said. “The goal is always to make the NCAA tournament.”