CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team opened its 2015 regular season with a three-set victory over the Illinois State Redbirds.
The Hurricanes won in straight sets to close out the opening night of the 2015 Hurricane Invitational. Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara appreciated his team’s effort and hopes to see them progress as the weekend continues.
“We had a high hitting percentage and we sided out well, even though we didn’t pass that well,” Gandara said. “Our serving was pretty good. We missed some in streaks, but it was good serving overall.”
Outside hitters Olga Strantzali and Taylor Scott led the Canes to a 25-23 opening set victory, combining for 11 kills. Scott led the way with seven kills and hit .462, while Strantzali added four kills while leading the Canes with a .500 attack percentage and three service aces.
Miami took a 2-0 lead into the intermission thanks to an improved offense in the second start. After a sluggish start offensively in the opening set, the Canes got into a groove in the second set as they improved from a .286 hitting percentage to a .464 clip. Senior Alexis Mourning believes the improvement came as a result of getting comfortable and focused on the match.
“Everyone was really excited, so we were a bit frantic and there were some nerves,” Mourning said. “Once we got going, everyone settled in and we were fine.”
Strantzali posted seven kills while hitting .778 in the final set to help the Canes close out the night with a 25-17 victory in the third set and secure Miami’s first win of the season. She finished the night with 15 kills while hitting .542, six digs and a career-high five aces.
“My coaches trust me and I feel like every girl here works so hard and we all try our best and it just worked out for me tonight,” Strantzali said. “It’s the first game and we can be better. It’s always good to start with a win, so I am happy about that.”
Sophomore Haley Templeton paced a balanced Miami offense that hit. 385 while tallying 46 kills on the night. The setter dished out 30 assists and added an ace against Illinois State.
Scott was the second Cane to post double-digit kills, finishing with 10, while hitting .360 on the night. The senior also ranked second on the team with seven digs. Junior Kelsie Groot was a well-rounded contributor, posting five kills and six digs, while Mourning and Sakile Simmons each hit over .500 while combining for nine kills and four blocks.
“We moved the ball around okay and our distribution was good,” Gandara said. “Sakile and Alexis hit for good numbers. I thought Haley did a great job of picking the moments to set Taylor and Olga is a good player that can make adjustments in different situations. Kelsie took good swings. They did a good job defending her, but her swings were good. I am happy with the rhythm of the offense and the distribution.”
Senior defensive specialist Kalysta White led the Hurricanes with 13 digs and added three assists, while reserve Michele Marenus had one of Miami’s seven aces against Illinois State. Despite the victory, Gandara would like to see his team improve when they return to the court on Saturday.
“I think our passing has been better than this,” Gandara said. “I think they served pretty well, but it’s something we need to improve on for tomorrow. Our blocking is the other area we have to make adjustments in, but it’s always tough to play the first few matches because you can’t get much information on the opponent beforehand so you have to make more adjustments on the fly.”
The Canes will face Florida A&M at 12:30 p.m., and Kansas State at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday, August 29. Admission is free to all Miami volleyball home matches in the 2015 regular season. Both Miami matches from the Hurricane Invitational will be broadcasted on ESPN3.
“Volleyball is all about momentum so this is great for us, but we have to get ready for tomorrow,” Mourning said. “We saw a lot of good things and some bad things. It was a lot of fun to play and be out there, but we have some things we can get better at.”