Volleyball Caps Weekend with Sweep of Nicholls St.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team swept Nicholls State in the Reed Green Coliseum Sunday morning to top off its perfect start of the season.

After comfortably taking the first set of its Southern Miss Invitational finale, the Hurricanes (3-0) had to battle back a double set point from the Nicholls State (0-2) in the second set in order to win it in extra points. LSU Tournament in September 2015.  Six out of eight Hurricanes contributed at least one kill to Miami’s 20 in the third set, as the Canes completed the sweep with a 25-12 success in the third set, hitting .562 as a team. After the comeback victories against Little Rock and Southern Miss Friday, the Hurricanes completed a preseason tournament with a perfect record for the first time since September 2015 (LSU Tournament).

As a result of the successful weekend, senior outside hitter Olga Strantzali was named tournament MVP. Her partner in attack, redshirt junior setter Haley Templeton, and Miami’s senior defensive specialist Sylvia Hernandez, were also named to the Southern Miss Invitational All-Tournament Team.

“We are constantly preaching the value of roles and that we’re best when each individual maximizes their production from their role,” assistant coach Kasey Crider said. “When you get in a situation where someone who has been fulfilling their role has the opportunity to provide the value in the way they ultimately want to, it’s a good deal.

“This match provided that and we got to see what a number of people are capable of. It was a lot of fun.”

Strantzali grabbed her recognition in style, having her most efficient performance of the weekend with .486 hitting. In addition to grabbing match-high 20 kills, Strantzali was the only player in double digits offensively. Junior outside hitter Kolby Bird and senior middle blocker Sakile Simmons were closest to join Strantzali in double digits with eight kills apiece. Stephanie Tobison led Nicholls State with nine kills.

Hernandez was the only Cane in double figures for digs, completing the weekend with 15 digs. Strantzali and Bird followed with eight digs apiece. The Colonels’ libero Victoria Becerra had team-high 13 digs.

Templeton (22 assists) and Miami’s sophomore setter Hannah Sorensen (20 assists), who started her first set of the season in the final set, combined for 42 assists in the match. Both of them had more than Nicholls State’s starting setter Emily Venable, who had 17.

Miami’s junior middle blocker Lucia Pampana led everyone in blocks once again, this time with five. Pampana had one block assist more than the Colonels’ combined number of four, helping the Hurricanes outblock their opponent 6-2.  

Miami allowed Nicholls State to tie set one on only occasion – 1-1 – before slowly but surely closing its grip on the set. The Hurricanes’ lead grew as much as 11 at 23-12 on a block by Pampana and sophomore outside hitter Elizaveta Lukianova. Nicholls State managed to put together its first three-point run late in the set, but that was only a formality before Dobbs sealed the set in Miami’s favor with her third kill of the set, 25-17.

The second set featured 11 tied scores and all five of the lead changes in the match. Both teams managed to go on runs that featured at least four straight points. Nicholls State even had a 5-0 run that put the Colonels in the lead at 13-12 early on. Nicholls State led by as many as three at 16-13 on a kill by Tobison, but Miami later matched that feat when Pampana and senior outside hitter Brooke McDermott orchestrated a block for 20-17. With the teams locked at 21 apiece, Bird gave Miami a fragile lead with a kill for 22-21. Tobison responded with two kills in a 3-0 Nicholls State run that gave the Colonels a double set point at 24-22. In the crucial moments Templeton opted for Strantzali and made no mistake, as the tournament MVP had three straight kills to top off the 4-0 run which won the set for Miami, 26-24.  

Strantali added three early kills to help Miami to a 4-0 start in set three, but Nicholls State managed to cut that lead in half at 7-5. The Canes went on another run – this time with seven straight points – and forced the Colonels into a timeout at 14-5. Simmons, who returned to the match after sitting out the third set, contributed four kills early in the set. The Colonels called two timeouts in quick succession in attempt to turn things around, but managed to score only two points between them. Meanwhile, Miami kept pushing and grabbed a lead as large as 13 on an ace by Strantzali at 21-8. Bird grabbed three more kills in the following minutes before Simmons grabbed her eighth as well to complete the Canes’ first sweep in 13 matches.

“No win comes as easy as the stat sheet suggests, even the close ones,” Crider said. “The reality is that it’s so much more than stats and why, when we earn a team like this, we the coaches always seem more excited than the average fan. Because we know all that goes into them.”

Miami will continue their extensive road trip to start the season next weekend. This time, the Hurricanes will compete closer to home, taking on Florida Atlantic University, Central Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University in the 2017 Homewood Suites Sunshine State Classic Sept. 1-2.

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