Hurricane Volleyball Gets Underway With Preseason Practice

Hurricane Volleyball Gets Underway With Preseason Practice

Aug. 13, 2002

After an impressive 17-7 season, capped off by an 11-match winning streak to end the season, Nicole Lantagne Welch and her coaching staff face a new challenge in 2002.

The new season not only brings new faces, but also begins a new era in Hurricanes volleyball as Miami enters BIG EAST Conference competition.

“The team is very excited to be finally in the BIG EAST Conference, says Lantagne Welch. “We are looking to turn things up a little in the BIG EAST.”

In only their second season after a 19-year absence from competition, the University of Miami women’s volleyball program is lead once again by a young cast of highly touted student-athletes, including seven returning lettermen and five incoming freshmen.

The 2002 squad will consist of five freshmen, six sophomores and one senior. The team will rely heavily upon senior outside hitter Marcela Gamarra for some much needed leadership and experience on the court.

The 6-0 Gamarra had an outstanding 2001 season, setting career-highs in several offensive categories. Miami will also look for experience among the six returning sophomores, led by outside hitter Jaime Grass and setter Mallorey James.

Grass; proved to be one of the team’s most versatile players, switching from the outside hitting position to replace James who suffered a mid-season injury.Setters

The Hurricanes expect solid play at the setter position with the return of sophomore Mallorey James. As the starting setter last year, James averaged a team-high 9.33 assists per game and finished the season with a team-high 513 total assists.

Despite a mid-season injury, the 5-8 sophomore recorded over 30 assists in 10 matches last season

“Mallorey James should enter this season as our starting setter,” said Lantagne Welch. “We are excited about having her run the court after getting a year of experience under her belt.”

Miami will have a solid backup setter in incoming freshman Margaret Young. A native of Santa Monica, Calif., Young led Marymount High to consecutive state championship titles, while earning first-team all-league honors her senior year. Young is also expected to compete for a starting spot at the new libero position.

The Hurricanes’ strongest and most experienced position this season will be at outside hitter. Miami returns six letterwinners from last year’s squad, including three starters in Marcela Gamarra, Jaime Grass and Valeria Tipiana.

Despite the loss of sophomore Christina Hernandez, who will be recovering from an off-season knee injury, returning sophomores Elizabeth Tyson, Ashley Youngs and incoming freshman Carrie Frash should be able to step in and provide depth.

Gamarra, a 6-0 senior from Medillin, Colombia will lead the attack for the young Hurricanes. Gamarra begins her senior campaign after leading Miami in almost every offensive category last season. She averaged a team-high 4.46 kills per game, while hitting .353. Additionally, she led the team in total attacks (804), second on the team in service aces (38) and hitting efficiency (.353), and fourth in blocks (41) and assists (29). As the only senior on the team, Gamarra will not only be relied upon for her offensive prowess but her leadership and experience on the court.

“Marcela comes into the season with the most experience on the team,” said Lantagne Welch. “She is our only senior and we are counting on her to lead us throughout the season.”

Grass, a 5-8 sophomore from Manhattan Beach, Calif., also highlights the group of returnees. As a freshman, Grass, the team’s most versatile player, saw action at both the outside hitter and setter positions, while collecting a team-high 279 digs and averaging 5.36 assists per game.

Grass, a silver medallist at the Junior Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, will also serve as the team’s defensive specialist.

“Jaime is our best defensive player from the backcourt,” said Lantagne. “She has played so much at the beach that she reads really well and can cover the court as well as anyone.”

Tipiana, a 6-1left-handed sophomore from Lima, Peru, is expected to offer the Hurricanes an offensive and defensive presence from the right side. Tipiana proved to be Miami’s most consistent player, finishing her freshman campaign with a team-high .356 attack percentage, while finishing second on the team in digs (208), third in blocks (68), assists (58), kills (192) and total attacks (419).

Providing depth and experience for the Hurricanes are sophomores Tyson and Youngs. Tyson, a 5-10 native of Jacksonville, Fla., provided solid backup in 2001 averaging 1.98 kills and 1.55 digs per game, while finishing fourth on the team in kills (129) and fifth in blocks (19).

“Biz is coming off a great spring,” said Lantagne Welch. “She is getting better every time she gets on the floor and we really look for her to contribute a great deal this fall.”

Youngs, a 5-10 sophomore from West Palm Beach, Fla., is expected to join Tipiana on the right side. Youngs acquired valuable experience as a freshman, playing in 51 games and 22 matches. She recorded 18 kills, 36 digs and four assists last season. Youngs has been training at both the outside and the new libero position, which increases her value as a player and her time on the floor.

The lone freshman in the mix is 5-11 Carrie Frash from Manhattan Beach, Calif. Frash led Marymount High to two consecutive Division IV State Championship titles her junior and senior years. Marymount was ranked 14th in the nation by Student Sports Magazine her senior year.

The Hurricanes will have three incoming freshmen competing for starting positions at the middle position. Leading the pack is the 6-1 Karla Johnson who is coming off one of her strongest club seasons with the Houston Juniors. Johnson, a native of Houston, Texas, was a first-team all-district selection at Westfield High her junior and senior years, while being named the district’s most valuable player her senior season.

“I think Karla Johnson should have a large impact on the team as a freshman,” added Lantagne Welch. “She played at a consistently high level against top competition during the entire club season. She has the size, which can help us blocking and attacking in the middle.”

Also competing for the starting nod at the middle blocker spot will be freshman Robin Lewullis hailing from Allentown, Pa. The 6-1 Lewullis was selected to the East Penn Conference All-Star First-Team her senior year, while guiding Allentown Central Catholic High to the East Penn Conference Championship title each of her four years.

Francheska Savage, a 6-0 freshman from Ft. Myers, Fla., rounds out the trio of middle blockers vying for significant playing time and potentially a starting job. Savage, a Ft. Myers News Press First-Team selection, guided Fort Myers to back-to-back conference and district championship titles. She earned first-team all-conference honors her senior year and was named FACA Player of the Year.