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Strantzali Makes History as Miami Wins Third Straight

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Behind a historic performance from senior Olga Strantzali, the University of Miami volleyball team bested Louisville 3-1 at the James L. Knight Sports Complex on Friday night.
Strantzali is Miami’s new all-time record holder for kills in a single match after contributing 33 of the Hurricanes’ (12-3, 6-3 ACC) 60 kills in the 25-21, 21-25, 26-24, 25-14 triumph, handing the Cardinals (13-6, 7-2 ACC) their second Atlanatic Coast Conference loss. She surpassed Savanah Leaf’s 31 kills, which came in a five-set win over UCF in the opening round of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship.

The senior assisted on the defensive end as well, recording seven digs and a block. Strantzali’s block was the Canes’ only solo block of the match and helped the Hurricanes outblock Louisville, 6-5, after being heavily outblocked by the Cardinals three weeks ago.

Strantzali’s efficiency on the night was nearly as impressive as her kill total. The outside hitter made only four errors on her 63 attempts to hit .460 on the night, the highest percentage among all pin hitters who played  in the match.

“Those numbers are as good as I’ve ever seen from anybody and it was fun to watch,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “Her efficiency in different situations – in transition and in serve-receive – and the way she responded to mistakes were unbelievable.

“All season long Olga has been training hard, and even though she may not have played as well as she’d liked, she always knew what she had to work on. Tonight her efforts paid off.”

Junior outside hitter Kolby Bird joined Strantzali in double figures, contributing 13 kills. Bird had as many as Louisville’s top scorer Melanie McHenry, but had a slightly better .320 percentage. Amanda Green added 12 kills for the Cardinals and tallied the only double-double in the match after picking up 10 digs as well.

Miami’s redshirt junior setter Haley Templeton, who was name ACC Player of the Week Monday, recorded match-high 50 assists, while contributing five digs and a block defensively.

“I could tell right away that this is [Strantzali’s] match,” Templeton said. “She was ready to play, she was ready to come out and beat this team. She did it. She had an amazing game.”

Senior libero Sylvia Hernandez led all players with 17 digs, while sophomore defensive specialist Sara Duque had 10 for the Hurricanes. They led a defensive line that allowed only two service aces on the night.

Bird was only a dig away from a double-double, but made up for it at the net, where she recorded team-high four blocks, tying Louisville’s Green and Maggie DeJong for the feat.

Strantzali, Bird and Templeton each contributed an ace for Miami, but it was sophomore setter Hannah Sorensen and senior outside hitter Brooke McDermott who were the Hurricanes’ primary service weapons Friday night, contributing three aces apiece.
Behind an impressive .452 hitting, Miami took the first set, 25-21. Strantzali got going early on and had eight first-set kills – six off her first nine swings – to help the Hurricanes led by as many as five before a late 4-1 run by Louisville made it 23-21. Nevertheless, two points later junior outside hitter Kolby Bird settled the set with her fourth kill. Miami’s offensive efficiency limited the Cardinals to just one block in the set, which came on the opening point of the contest.

“Teams were having good numbers against us blocking, so it was something we addressed,” Gandara said. “We just had to learn how to challenge the block. I thought that tonight we faced a well-blocking team and it didn’t affect us that much. It takes composure to take the right shot at the right time and to be persistent until we get it right. It’s been something that we’ve been working on, so it was nice to see it come to fruition.”
After winning eight out of the first 10 points in the second set, Louisville never gave up the momentum and won it 25-21 to tie the match. Miami stuck around in mid-set and made it a one-point set with an emphatic kill by Templeton for 17-16, but the Cardinals were the more clinical team in the decisive moments. Louisville made only six combined attack errors and went into the locker room hitting .350. The two defenses went into the intermission in a stalemate with 24 digs apiece.

Despite having a seven-point cushion at 22-15 in the third set thanks to an ace by McDermott, Miami had to go to extra points before regaining its lead in the match. Louisville orchestrated a 9-2 to tie the score at 24 all, but Strantzali’s 26th kill of the match and an error by Green wrapped up the set at 26-24. The Canes won the fourth set despite Louisville’s slightly higher hitting.

???????Strantzali contributed seven kills in the fourth set to make sure her historical performance was topped off with an important ACC victory as Miami routed to a 25-14 triumph. The Hurricanes forced their opponent into a timeout only seven points into the set after enjoying a 6-1 start. Two kills by Tess Clark and one by DeJong made it 6-4 to create some momentum for Louisville, but the Canes would not have that. Not long after, three straight kills by Bird made it 12-6 Miami and were a part of a 9-1 Canes run that increased the lead to 11 at 18-7. All Louisville could do for the rest of the match was to keep the deficit at 11 before Strantzali did what she had been doing all night, grabbing the match-winning kill.

“It was awesome, it was the best game I have ever had,” said Strantzali after ensuring her place in Miami Volleyball history. “It was so much fun to be out there and dominating them. I loved it. That was the most important thing today.” 

“Everything felt good since the first set and I knew I am going to have a good night, but on top of all I am so happy we beat Louisville, because we lost there. My teammates helped out a lot. We passed well, Haley was awesome today…they just made my job a little easier.”

Miami returns to the court on Sunday to take on Notre Dame, which prevailed over Florida State, 3-1, on Friday night. First serve against the Fighting Irish in the Knight Complex is scheduled for 2 p.m.
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