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Volleyball Closes Out Weekend with 3-0 Victory

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team battled to its second three-set victory Saturday after sweeping FGCU in the Sunshine State Classic finale at Alico Arena.

Despite cruising in the opening set, the Hurricanes (6-0) had to claw their way to two-point triumphs in sets two and three to retain their undefeated record with the 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 28-26) victory. With the win, Miami matched its 6-0 season start from 2011, when the Hurricanes went on to win nine consecutive matches.

“I thought we played good volleyball against good teams on the road [this weekend],” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “Most importantly, we showed improvements in the areas we worked on this week. We had a lot of players contributing and we are learning more and more about our team.”

Redshirt junior Haley Templeton, senior outside hitter Olga Strantzali and senior libero Sylvia Hernandez played a vital role in the Canes’ success once again and earned all-tournament team honors for the second consecutive weekend. Templeton, who had 41 assists four kills, four digs, a service ace and a block against the Eagles, was named Sunshine State Classic MVP.

“I believe that our leadership has played a huge role in success,” Gandara said. “With players like Olga, Sylvia and Haley on the court, we are learning how to prepare and manage the emotions and play with composure.”

Strantzali had her second 21-kill performance of the weekend to lead the field in kills. The senior hit .326 in the weekend finale and had the highest efficiency among all pin hitters in the match. Amanda Carroll and Courtney Stephens shared the credit as the Eagles’ top scorers with 12 kills apiece.

In addition to another match-high performance with 18 digs, Hernandez topped off her tournament with four assists – most by a non-setter in the match – as well as an ace and her second kill of the season.

Junior outside hitter Kolby Bird put on a well-rounded display highlighted by a season-high of 12 kills. Bird matched Strantzali’s six digs and added two assists. Meanwhile Bird’s classmate, middle blocker Lucia Pampana, proved tough to beat at the net once again, notching match-high four blocks. Pampana had a great night on the offensive end as well, hitting .615 for nine kills. Freshman outside hitter Elizaveta Lukianova, who partnered Pampana in the middle against FGCU, had four blocks as well, a new career-best for her. Daniele Serrano led FGCU with three blocks.

The Canes carried the momentum of the 3-0 win over UCF earlier into the nightcap, winning the first three points of the match on kills by Strantzali, Pampana and Lukianova, respectively. Later in the set Strantzali capped off a 8-2 Miami run with a kill to force the Eagles into their second timeout of the set. FGCU scored three straight points coming out of the huddle and came within four, but that did not have much effect on the set result. The Hurricanes’ cushion grew to nine later on before a kill by Pampana closed the set off by the same margin at 25-16.

The second set was as close as the final score indicated and was decided at the net. Trailing by three at 20-17 – the largest deficit in the set – and then at 23-21, the Hurricanes used big blocks by Pampana (with an assist from Strantzali) to come out of the holes. After Bird picked up a kill to tie the set at 23 all, senior middle blocker Sakile Simmons and Lukianova demonstrated size first against Carroll and then against Giovanna Borgiotti to send Miami into the intermission with a two-set lead and all the momentum, 25-23.

An ace by Hernandez and kills from Bird and Lukianova helped Miami to a 5-0 run that forced a FGCU timeout through the first 10 points of the third set, 7-3. Ten points later it was Miami who needed to talk it over while trailing the Eagles 11-9. The Canes were unfazed and quickly regained control of the set, leading by as many as four at 20-16. Hernandez’s unlikely kill edged her team within two points of the sweep at 23-20, but a kill by Carroll and two by Snowy Burnam locked the teams at 23 all. Despite having their first three match points canceled off, the Hurricanes composed their composure and never let FGCU get in front before completing the sweep on a kill by Strantzali for 28-26.

The Canes continue their road trip at the Philadelphia Cherry & White Challenge. In an atypically short non-conference weekend, Miami will first face Delaware on Friday (3:30 p.m.) and then close out the tournament against the host team, Temple, on Saturday (2 p.m.).

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