Hurricanes Wrap Up the 2003 Season
Dec. 11, 2003
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – With a 3-1 loss to No. 17 Notre Dame in the BIG EAST Championships on Nov. 22 the 2003 edition of the University of Miami volleyball team saw their season come to a close.
The Hurricanes wrapped up the season with an overall record of 22-9 while finishing with a 9-3 record in BIG EAST play, finishing third in the conference behind Notre Dame and first-place Pittsburgh.
Coming off the 2002 season that saw UM advanced to the regional semi-finals of the NCAA tournament, third-year head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch and the Hurricanes kicked off the 2003 season winning five straight, including a top-place finish at the annual Hurricane Invitational.
The Hurricanes suffered their first two losses of the season at the Wildcat Invitational at the hands of then No. 10 Arizona and then No. 20 Santa Clara. Miami would go on to win three of the next five matches.
Following a 3-1 loss to in-state rival Florida State on Sept. 19 the Hurricanes exploded, winning eight consecutive matches in route to taking 11 of their next 13 matches. During the course of those eleven wins, Miami swept all but one opponent in three games to make a move to the top of the BIG EAST standings.
Miami would stumble in the next match, suffering a 3-1 loss to conference leader Pittsburgh, despite overpowering the Panthers in the first game 30-22.
Junior outside hitter Valeria Tipiana earned All-BIG EAST Second Team honors in 2003.
UM would win their next two matches before moving on to BIG EAST rival Notre Dame, who at the time was undefeated in conference play. In a nationally televised match, the Irish did not miss a beat against Miami, taking the match in three games, leaving the Hurricanes in a tie for third place in the BIG EAST standings.
With a spot in the conference tournament on the line, the Hurricanes dominated Virginia Tech, 3-0 in the regular season finale to secure their spot as the third seed in the BIG EAST Championship.
With a loss to Pittsburgh, Notre Dame moved into second place in the conference standings, setting up a rematch with UM in the opening round of the BIG EAST tournament.
In the BIG EAST Championship tournament Notre Dame would take the first two games, 30-19 and 30-22. Miami responded with a sense of urgency in the third frame to upend the Irish 30-23. The comeback faltered in the fourth slate when Notre Dame responded with a 30-20 victory to seal the match, ending the Hurricanes’ season.
Throughout the season, Miami fought through a schedule that included nine teams who would go on to make the NCAA tournament and six teams that were either ranked or receiving votes in the top-25 in 2003, to come out with their second consecutive 20 plus win season along with their second straight BIG EAST Championship birth.
A number of young players emerged to make an impact for Miami in 2003. In her first collegiate start, freshman setter Jill Robinson turned in 48 assists to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-0 win over George Mason.
Robinson would go on to lead the Hurricanes in assist, averaging 9.94 per game, while earning BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honors on three separate occasions. Robinson’s impact proved to be crucial due to the absence of junior Mallorey James, the returning 2002 BIG EAST Setter of the Year, who was sidelined for the majority of the season with an injury.
Redshirt freshman, Francheska Savage also jumped on the scene in the middle this season, finishing third on the team in blocks per game (0.83) and hitting percentage (.326) and was tabbed the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week on Oct. 12.
Freshman setter Jill Robinson was tabbed the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week three times througout 2003.
Newcomer Leyre Santaella Sante quickly made her mark on the UM program as a dominant outside hitter. Santaella Sante, a senior transfer from Central Florida, made her way into the Hurricanes’ starting rotation to lead UM in kills per game (3.97) with 433 total kills on the season while earning All-BIG EAST Second Team honors in her only season at Miami.
Injuries plagued the Miami lineup throughout the season. Along with James’ injury, the 2003 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Valeria Tipiana also went down late in the season with an injury, limiting her to just 88 games. Despite missing almost a fifth of the Hurricanes’ season, Tipiana finished second on the team in kills (335) averaging 3.81 per game and was named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team.
Although UM was left on the outside bubble of the NCAA tournament, the Hurricanes can consider the 2003 season a success. Facing what proved to be the toughest schedule in the program’s young history, coupled with injuries to some of the team’s more prominent players, Miami was able to overcome adversity to produce their third winning season in as many years.