Canes dominate rivalry game versus Florida State, continue tearing through ACC competition

Junior setter Savannah Vach dives to save a point during Miami’s win over FSU on Wednesday Oct. 6 at the Knight Complex in Coral Gables.
Junior setter Savannah Vach dives to save a point during Miami’s win over FSU on Wednesday Oct. 6 at the Knight Complex in Coral Gables. Photo credit: Josh Halper

In one of the most highly anticipated matches of the season, the Hurricanes dominated cross-state rival Florida State at the Knight Sports Complex Wednesday night.

The latest chapter in the storied University of Miami – Florida State University rivalry was written in front of a season-high home crowd of 590 fans, who witnessed a competitive matchup with serious implications for what remains of the 2021 college volleyball season.

Going into yesterday night’s match, both the Hurricanes and the Seminoles had conference records of 3-1 in an Atlantic Coast Conference that boasts two teams in the nation’s top three per the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll: No. 2 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Louisville.

With their win over FSU, who received 20 top 25 votes in the most recent AVCA poll, the Hurricanes have now moved up to third place in the conference rankings and are a half-game above Syracuse (14-2, 3-1 ACC).

Despite the one-sided match victory, the journey to the win column was not an easy one early on for the Canes.

The Seminoles and the Hurricanes exchanged points back and forth early, but a 10-3 run in the first set by Florida State forced Miami into a 15-8 deficit. Late in the set, the Hurricanes evened the score at 21-21 and forced extra volleyball, but two errors from outside hitter Janet Kalaniuvalu and middle blocker Janice Leao gave the Seminoles a 26-25 lead. FSU outside hitter Audrey Koenig then closed the match with a kill and a 27-25 victory for Florida State.

However, after dropping the opener, the rest of the match belonged to the Hurricanes.

In the second set, the Canes turned up their offensive game dramatically from the first set, posting a match-high hitting percentage of .359, recording 16 kills and committing only two errors in 39 attempts. After trailing 12-7 early, a 12-1 outburst gave Miami a comfortable 19-13 lead that they held for good, with outside hitter Angela Grieve and middle blocker Aristea Tontai striking back-to-back kills to secure the set win.

In the third set, the Hurricanes got off to an electric 6-1 start catalyzed by three consecutive blocks, and Miami never looked back from that point forward. Despite Florida State’s efforts to bring the set within a handful of points late, the Seminoles’ comeback ultimately fell short and they dropped the set 25-22 after committing a match-high eight errors.

In the match finale, Miami overpowered Florida State in a decisive 25-11 set win, posting its second-best hitting percentage of the match with a .325 clip and forcing another eight errors from Florida State’s offense. Following an early 6-6 tie, the Canes exploded for a 19-6 run to shut the door on the Seminoles and end their short, three-game home stand with a perfect record.

Miami players celebrate after securing a point during the fourth set in Miami’s 3-1 victory over Florida State on Wednesday, Oct. 6 at the Knight Complex in Coral Gables Florida
Miami players celebrate after securing a point during the fourth set in Miami’s 3-1 victory over Florida State on Wednesday, Oct. 6 at the Knight Complex in Coral Gables. Photo credit: Josh Halper

While the match only went to four sets with the finale being a blowout, Miami loaded the stat sheet. On the night, four Hurricanes – Tontai, Peyman Yardimci, Leao, and Grieve – recorded double-digit kills. Setter Savannah Vach registered a team-high sixth double-double and set a pair of season-bests with 51 assists and 19 digs. Miami also continues to excel at defending the ball at the net, combining for 12.5 blocks whereas Florida State only tallied two.

After the game, head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara shared the credit and high praise of his streaking team with his coaching staff.

“I have to give a special shout-out to assistant coach Jill [Hadder]. She’s been outstanding in prepping our defense,” Gandara said. “We’re doing an excellent job stopping teams, and she’s in charge of that phase. I’m glad she’s invested five years of her career here – we’re so much better for it.”

With a statement win over a talented FSU team, the Hurricanes now look ahead to a brief, one-game road trip to Durham, North Carolina, where they will take on the Duke Blue Devils (11-4, 2-2 ACC) on Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m.