Miami volleyball splits last two matches of UCF Invitational

Junior middle blocker Janice Leao tips the ball during the Canes’ game versus UMBC in the Knight Sports Complex on Aug. 29, 2021.
Junior middle blocker Janice Leao tips the ball during the Canes’ game versus UMBC in the Knight Sports Complex on Aug. 29, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

After losing their first match of the season last week, the Hurricanes’ volleyball team lost another heartbreaker match against Central Florida (UCF) on Saturday night.

It was an extremely tight match that took two-and-a-half hours to finish. The Knights (4-0) were victorious and edged Miami (6-2) to steal a 3-2 decision.

“It’s always painful when you lose, but even more so when you are committed and invested like this group,” Miami head coach Jose Gandara said in a Miami Athletics release. “It was a great match and I give UCF and their staff a lot of credit. We will learn some valuable lessons from this and will be better because of it.”

The ‘Canes came out strong and took over the first set, 25-21, after a close battle with UCF. Senior middle blocker Janice Leao topped the set off with a powerful block to shut down the Knights.

Early in the second set, UCF retaliated by stealing control of the match with a 9-0 lead. Miami responded with the next five points; however, the Knights held on to their lead, winning the frame, 25-17.

After a brief intermission, the Hurricanes knew they really needed to pick it up in the next set.

The third set turned out to be the best set of the night, as Miami ruled the court with a 25-13 win.

The fourth set was much closer. UM was up 21-20 after a great block by sophomore outside hitter Peyman Yardimci. UCF replied with a 5-2 run and took the win in the set, 25-23.

In the deciding set, the Knights quickly scored a 10-7 lead to overwhelm Miami, but the Hurricanes fought back and took the next three points to tie the score. UCF grabbed the lead back and ended the set with a 5-2 burst, ending with a 15-12 decision in order to solidify the 3-2 match result.

The Hurricanes responded in a big way on Sunday afternoon, sweeping the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks in the final match of the UCF Invitational.

“It was great to finally get a win,” Gandara said. “I thought we were prepared, focused and played well. We played with a lot of joy and energy.”

In the first set, Miami (7-2) found themselves in a battle. Down 17-16, the ‘Canes used three straight kills to turn the tide and win the set, 25-21.

Freshman Flormarie Heredia Colon led the way in the first set with two kills. The outside hitter finished with 10 kills in total, second most on the team.

In the second set, Miami got off to a fast start and didn’t look back, winning 25-14. The ‘Canes rode this momentum into the third set, downing the Seahawks (2-7) 25-17 to complete the sweep.

While it wasn’t enough to stop Miami, UNC Wilmington did have a balanced defense as three players earned five or more digs. Illinois native Katie Lanz, junior Annabelle Schall and Colgan High School alumni Sydney Thaxton had five, seven and nine digs, respectively.

Miami was led Yardimci with 11 kills. The outside hitter also had an impressive attack percentage of.529, which was nearly double her average.

Leao led the team in attack percentage (.571), though, and she is currently 14th in the nation in hitting percentage (.443).

One Miami player made their debut, as well. Graduate student Tyanna Omazic earned six kills, two blocks and two digs.

Overall, Miami beat UNC in almost all major statistical categories. The Hurricanes’ 39 kills were 11 more than UNC Wilmington had and on the defensive end, Miami finished with 10 more digs.

Setter Savannah Vach’s 32 assists, a team-high for the ‘Canes, were more than the Seahawks’ total of 27.

With this sweep, Miami has now swept five of its nine non-conference opponents.

Next up, the Hurricanes will return home for the first time this season. Marking the start of a four-game homestand, the ‘Canes will host South Carolina on Friday, Sept. 16 at the Knight Sports Complex. The game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

“This is a great group and they know that winning is fragile and the margin is small,” Gandara said. “I’m excited to get to work this week as we get ready to host the Hurricane Invitational next weekend.”

Patrick McColl also contributed to this story.