2008 Miami Volleyball Season Outlook

2008 Miami Volleyball Season Outlook

Aug. 20, 2008

Coral Gables, Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team has reason to believe that 2008 could shape up to be a breakthrough season for this current group of players. With seven of its top eight offensive players and one of the league’s top defenders in Cassie Loessberg returning, this UM squad appears primed for a return to volleyball’s elite.

Add in an impressive freshman class and a pair of talented 2007 redshirts, and head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch appears to have one of her more talented teams in this, her eighth season, at the helm in Coral Gables.

“We have a lot of depth this year, we have a lot of great players and we have a lot of good people,” Lantagne Welch said. “Individually, they’re all in it for the team, and that team-first attitude is what we’re looking for this year.”

Coaching Staff
Lantagne Welch brought on two new assistant coaches this past offseason in Felix Hou and Laura Kuhn. Both Hou and Kuhn have a wealth of experience in the ACC and know what it takes to succeed in the league.

Hou, who comes to UM after serving as an assistant at the University of Maryland, brings over 20 years of coaching experience at the university, club and national levels. Kuhn, a four-year letterwinner at Georgia Tech from 2001-2004, is an up-and-coming coach that has had stints at Appalachian State and Florida State since graduating from GT in 2005.

Middle Blockers
Replacing the program’s all-time blocks leader Ciara Michel will be one of the coaching staff’s top priorities heading into the 2008 season. Filling the void left by Michel, who finished with 573 blocks and 962 kills in her four seasons in Coral Gables, won’t be easy, but Lantagne Welch has a deep group of middle blockers to turn to.

Angelica Ellis, one of three seniors on this year’s squad, has the most experience of the bunch, having played in 210 games in her first three seasons.

Angelica Ellis is a very-gifted one-foot hitter,” stated Lantagne Welch. “She finished last season having the best blocking match of the year, and we expect her to just continue on from that point. Whenever she can have a great match blocking, it’s tremendous for our success.”

Lici McGee, a 6-3 redshirt sophomore, sat out last season but returns to the lineup this year while sophomore Ariell Cooke is also back after recording 121 kills and 43 total blocks as a freshman in 2007. Freshman Ali Becker (Katy, Texas) also enters the mix with Ellis, McGee and Cooke.

Outside Hitters
For as much depth as Miami has in the middle, no position offers more flexibility than at outside hitter. In addition to all four outside hitters returning, the Hurricanes add 2007 redshirt Christine Williamson and incoming freshman Lane Carico to the equation in 2008.

Junior Genny Mayhew, the team’s MVP in 2007, enters the fall as one of the ACC’s top outside hitters. From her freshman season in 2006 to her sophomore campaign last year, Mayhew increased her kill total by 316 (112 in 2006 to 428 in 2007) and will again be counted on to lead the Hurricane attack this season.

“Genny hits the ball harder than anyone, and she’s worked on more of a line shot in the spring which is going to give her a lot more opportunities to score. She also worked on her passing in the spring, and that’s going to make her a mainstay for us.”

Seniors Bridget Bomhack and Ashley Woods give Lantagne Welch a pair of leaders on the outside that have combined for 785 kills, 343 assists, 445 digs and 240 total blocks in their careers. Bomhack had a coming out party in 2007, becoming the first player in school history to record 250 kills, 100 assists, 300 digs, 50 blocks and 25 aces in a single season. Woods was one of UM’s most efficient hitters last season and will anchor down the rightside of the UM attack in 2008.

“Bridget is the type of player that can do everything,” commented Lantagne Welch about Bomhack. She’s a strong hitter, a great blocker and a very good passer. She’s a really solid all-around player and competitor as well. She has so much energy on the court and the team feeds off of that as well.”

Ashley Woods has the most experience on our team as she enters into her fifth year after redshirting,” added Lantagne Welch. “She’s got the big block and a strong left hand coming from the right side that aids us as well.”

Sophomore Maria Andersson stepped in as a freshman last year and averaged 2.23 kills per game and 2.32 digs per game, playing in 29 of UM’s 31 matches. Andersson, along with Williamson and Carico, give Lantagne Welch one of the most talented group of outside hitters she has had in her eight years at UM.

“I would say that Maria had the best individual spring than any other player,” commented Lantagne Welch. “She had to make quite an adjustment from coming over from Sweden last August, but I think this spring really gave her an idea as to how we train. I think that really helped her a lot as to her passing. She’s already been an exceptional defensive player, but now she’s just a solid outside hitter for us.”

Libero/Defensive Specialists
As a sophomore last season, Loessberg also had a break-out year in 2007, recording a school-record 552 digs, shattering the previous mark of 499 set by Jamie Grass in 2004. Loessberg, whose 4.88 digs per game average is the third highest of any returning ACC player, enters the 2008 season needing just 130 more digs to become just the third player in school history to record 1,000 career digs.

“This is a player that’s coming off an outstanding spring,” admits Lantagne Welch. “She’s always been a really good defender and really quick on the court. She’s worked on her passing during the off-season, and her realization that she can take more area is going to continue to improve her confidence and help us that much more. This is going to be a year that she gets noticed around the conference.”

Sophomore Tatiana Alvarez and junior Griffin Udelson will again provide depth behind Loessberg on the defensive side of the ball. Alvarez saw action in 12 games in 2007 while Udelson appeared in 18.

“I think our backcourt is so much stronger this year, and we have such a great collection of good passers to go to this season,” Lantagne Welch said. “And that’s a very important aspect of the game of volleyball–starting off your offense.”

Katie Gallagher had arguably one of the best freshman seasons in the history of the UM program in 2007, setting a new school record for aces in a season (67) while also recording the third-most assists in a single season (1,243). Gallagher also led the Hurricanes with a .271 attack percentage (87 K, 22 E, 240 TA) and ranked second in the ACC and 17th nationally in aces per game (0.59). Bomhack, who has 225 career assists, will again serve as UM’s secondary setter behind Gallagher.

“Katie’s coming back for her sophomore year, and we’re going to ask her to do even more this season as far as running an even more efficient offense,” added Lantagne Welch. “She’s going to have some new challenges. With experience you gain more knowledge, and trying to put her hitters in a better position to score. She also possesses a great serve, and we expect a really big year out of her.”

Six matches against 2007 NCAA Tournament participants, an early season home tournament and five home Atlantic Coast Conference matches in the month of October highlight the 2008 University of Miami volleyball schedule.

UM will open the season at Texas State University’s CenturyTel Premier Tournament, August 29-30 before returning to Coral Gables for their lone home tournament of the fall for the Eighth Annual Hurricane Invitational, Sept. 4-6, at the Knight Sports Complex. Alabama, VCU and South Dakota State will join the Hurricanes in a six-match round robin style tournament that will feature a Thursday night match before three matches on Friday and two on Saturday. The Hurricanes will face South Dakota State on Thursday night at 6 p.m. and after a day off on Friday, face Alabama and VCU on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m respectively.

Miami will then head to San Francisco, Calif. to play in its third tournament of the fall, Sept. 12-13, at the University of San Francisco’s War Memorial Gym.

For the third straight season, UM will open conference play against in-state rival Florida State. The Hurricanes and Seminoles will square off Friday, Sept. 19 in Coral Gables before UM makes the short trip to Boca Raton to battle Florida Atlantic at the FAU Arena, Sept. 20.

ACC play picks back up for Miami the following week when the team makes its first of two trips to the state of North Carolina when it plays at Duke and at Wake Forest, Thursday, Sept. 25 and Friday, Sept. 26. The `Canes will remain on the road the following week when they travel to Clemson Friday, Oct. 3 to take on the Tigers before making the short trip southwest to Atlanta the next day to battle Georgia Tech Saturday, Oct. 4.

After a five-match road swing, UM will play at the Knight Sports Complex three of the next four weekends. UM will face FAU again on Oct. 7 in the first of five straight home matches.

After the mid-week match against the Owls, UM returns to its conference slate when it plays host to Boston College (Oct. 10), Maryland (Oct. 12), NC State (Oct. 17) and North Carolina (Oct. 18) in a span of nine days.

Miami will make a quick road trip to the state of Virginia to take on Virginia and Virginia Tech, Oct. 24 and 25 before returning home to face Duke Friday, Oct. 31 and Wake Forest Sunday, Nov. 2.

UM will close out its regular season slate with five of its final seven matches on the road. The `Canes will head to Maryland (Nov. 7) and Boston College (Nov. 9) before its final home weekend when they play host to Georgia Tech Friday, Nov. 14 and Clemson Sunday, Nov. 16.

The team’s second trip to North Carolina will come the following weekend when UM plays at UNC (Nov. 20) and at NC State (Nov. 21) before wrapping up its regular season the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, Nov. 26 at FSU.