Canes Top Notre Dame on the Road, 3-1
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The University of Miami volleyball team defeated Atlantic Coast Conference foe Notre Dame 3-1 at the Purcell Pavilion Friday night to continue its unbeaten start of the season.
With the victory, the Hurricanes (9-0, 3-0 ACC) tied their best start of the decade and are now one of only three NCAA teams without a loss in 2017. The Irish (10-4, 0-3 ACC) pushed to force a fifth set after Miami had jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but were stopped in their tracks during a fourth set that had 1,532 people at the edge of their seats.
“This win was a total team effort and not everything is shown in the box score,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “We had great focus and battled all night.”
Senior outside hitter Olga Strantzali marked a season-best performance with 25 kills, including the two that settled the Hurricanes’ longest set played this season. Junior outside hitter Kolby Bird repeated her season-high mark of 17 kills from last weekend to aid the victory, which was second straight at the Purcell Pavilion for the Hurricanes. Strantzali and Bird picked up double-doubles after picking up 17 and 14 digs, respectively.
Redshirt junior setter Haley Templeton ran the offense traditionally well and grabbed 44 assists, but it was her defensive performance that raised eyebrows Friday night – Templeton recorded career-high 21 digs, outdoing her previous best mark by three and the Canes’ senior libero Sylvia Hernandez (20 digs) by one. Sophomore defensive specialist Sara Duque was the fifth Hurricane with double digits defensively, posting career-high 17 digs.
“The team showed an amazing defensive battle,” Gandara said. “Our players did a good job at preparing and then at staying on task through the match.”
Templeton and another Hurricanes setter, sophomore Hannah Sorensen, accounted for Miami’s two service aces in the match.
Junior middle blocker Lucia Pampana and senior outside hitter Brooke McDermott led Miami with five blocks apiece. For McDermott, the third-highest Hurricane on the night with five kills, this was a career-high blocking display.
The Hurricanes endured a shaky start to the match under the tumultuous atmosphere in the Pavilion, but found their feet in the middle of the opening set, when they went on a 12-4 run – featuring four straight Strantzali kills – to take a 19-16 lead. The Hurricanes protected their cushion very well and took the lead in the match with Strantzali’s 10th kill of the set, 25-22. Meanwhile, Notre Dame combined for eight kills in the opening set.
Gandara was forced into a timeout at 20-17 Irish in the second set, but the best of the Hurricanes was yet ahead in the set. The Canes came out of the timeout swinging and tied the set at 21-21 on a block by Pampana and McDermott. Feeling the momentum shifting, Bird picked up two more kills as Miami doubled its match lead, 25-23.
The Irish made it clear that they were not out of the contest with a dominant display in the third set, which they won 25-11. Notre Dame hit .242 – best by any team in the contest – and held the Hurricanes under the line (-.154) to stay in the match.
The 20 tie scores and nine lead changes in the wild final set preceded the combined numbers for the first three sets in both categories. An ace by Ryann DeJarld brought Notre Dame within a point of forcing a fifth set like it did a year ago, but back-to-back-to-back errors by the Irish, who hit just .083 in the final set, gave Miami its first of four match points, 25-24. Nerves took toll on both attacking lines as errors were predominant late in the fourth set as both teams pushed for the triumph. The Canes had to battle two more set points before Strantzali found it within her to win back-to-back points for her team and settle the nail biter at 32-30.
Next up for the unbeaten Hurricanes is a Sunday showdown at Louisville, where Strantzali recorded career-best 30 kills last season. First serve against the Cardinals is at 1 p.m. The match will be streamed live on ACC Network Extra.
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