Hurricanes Head into ACC Championship Weekend

Hurricanes Head into ACC Championship Weekend

April 15, 2009

The middle of April is rapidly approaching which mean one thing for University of Miami Athletics: ACC Championship time. Over five days, between April 16 and 20, six of Miami’s programs will be competing in venues located in North Carolina to Tennessee to right here in our backyard in Coral Gables. The six competing teams are the men’s and women’s tennis teams, the men’s and women’s track and field team, women’s golf, and rowing.

The top-10 caliber Hurricanes women’s tennis team will kick off their ACC Championship hopes this Thursday in Cary, N.C. at Cary Tennis Park. Miami has been ranked inside the ITA top ten tennis rankings for the majority of the spring, being ranked as high as number four. The Hurricanes had their most successful regular season under eighth-year Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, finishing 21-3 overall and 10-1 in ACC play. They ride a 10-match win streak heading into the tournament, including three consecutive 7-0 sweeps to end the regular season.

Miami features a quartet of players ranked in the top 50; sophomores Julia Cohen, a transfer from Florida, currently ranked number four nationally, Michaela Kissell, and Bianca Eichkorn, and junior Laura Vallverdu, who was honored as an All-American in both 2007 and 2008. In the bracket, Miami was awarded the top seed and looks at a possible rematch with fourth-seeded Georgia Tech in the conference semifinals. Georgia Tech handed Miami their lone conference loss on March 7. In 2008, Miami finished third in the ACC, but will look to build upon their 2009 season momentum this weekend to come out on top.

The men’s tennis team will be seeded number two in the ACC Tournament, also being held at Cary Tennis Center in Cary, N.C. The team, who finished the regular season at 13-7 and 9-2 in the ACC under fifth year Head Coach Mario Rincon, will be coming into the tournament winning their last five matches, and seven out of their last eight. The nine ACC wins tied the team with the 2006 Men’s Tennis squad for the most in program history.

Miami features two seniors who have led the Hurricanes to their solid finish, Daniel Vallverdu and David Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld stepped up in the second half of the season playing doubles with Vallverdu, where the pair went 7-3. Vallverdu is a four-time All-American as well as a three-time All-ACC player and has held down the top singles spot since coming back from injury. In the bracket, Miami earned a first round bye and will face the winner of Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, both of whom Miami defeated in regular season play. In 2008, Miami made a remarkable run to the ACC Championship match as a seventh seed, only to fall to the nation’s number one, Virginia. They look to get back there this time around and take their stellar season a few steps further.

The track and field team will begin their conference championship on Thursday, April 16 at their home Cobb Stadium in Coral Gables. The Miami women, who won the ACC Outdoor Championship in both 2005 and 2006, looks to win a third overall team title in five years under long-time Head Coach Amy Deem. Seniors Murielle Ahoure and Krista Simkins lead the Hurricanes on the women’s side. Ahoure, a recent transfer from George Mason, is a favorite for the 60-meter and 200-meter sprinting events. She, along with Simkins, will both be crucial legs for relays such as the 4×100 and 4×400 events. Simkins was the national champion for the Indoors 400-meter event in 2008.

On the men’s side, which will compete alongside the women’s team in Coral Gables, juniors Mikese Morse and Cory Nelms lead a competitive unit into the weekend. Morse, a transfer from South Florida, is Miami’s top long jumper and will look to build upon some career bests in the spring this weekend after earning All-American status in 2008 at USF. Nelms will look to defend his ACC title in the 60-meter hurdles as well as compete for the title in the 110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles.

The women’s golf team will travel to Greensboro, N.C. to compete in their respective ACC Championship on April 17-19. Miami had a solid season, highlighted by a share of first place as a team at the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic in late February. Sophomores Christina Hirano and Maria Ronderos, as well as the younger sister of Christina, freshman Jennifer Hirano, will lead the Hurricanes in the 12-team tournament.

The young golfers showed a wealth of talent this spring, each bringing unique styles and individual strengths every time out on the course. Ronderos led the team with three top-10 finishes this season, including a seventh place finish at the John Kirk/Panther Intercollegiate on April 6-7. Christina Hirano had three top-15 finishes of her own, including a team-best finish for the season at the Island Classic, where she finished in a tie for sixth. The team is led by Head Coach Lela Cannon, who is in her 26th season with the team. Cannon won a national championship in just her first season in the position and is looking to develop a championship contending team again this year.

The women’s rowing team will head to Oak Ridge, Tenn. to compete in the ACC Championship on April 20. Miami looked dominant in the first stages of their season, winning match-ups against Dowling College, Rochester, and Connecticut. They looked very strong in the San Diego Crew Classic, posting a number of top-five finishing times. The first varsity eight and second varsity eight boats have looked especially promising under the leadership of first year interim Head Coach Boban Rankovic.

The Hurricanes are led by their top two coxswains, sophomore Shira Kharrazi for the 1V8, and sophomore Christina Crocco for the 2V8. Freshman Frida Schnedier, who primarily rows in the stroke position, or the head rower, for the 1V8 boat, will also look to lead a young Miami squad into the ACC Championship on Monday.

All of these teams have completed their regular season competition and look to make an even bigger mark in their respective ACC Championships. Miami, who switched over to the Atlantic Coast Conference from the Big East Conference at the start of the 2004-2005 academic year, is looking to take the next step as a true conference powerhouse in multiple sports. Follow each individual team’s page throughout the weekend for daily updates on tournament progress.