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Storming into Second Weekend

Storming into Second Weekend

by Alex Schwartz

CORAL GABLES, Fla. It would be tough to script a better opening weekend for the University of Miami volleyball team than the one it actually had.

The Hurricanes swept all three of their matches, with one at a neutral site, the next on the road and the third at home. The overall scoring margin was increasing larger in each outing, as well.

After edging Tarleton State Friday—Miami won the first and third sets by a narrow 25-23 margin—the Hurricanes rolled to a road win over FIU, outscoring the Panthers by 29 points on their home court. In Sunday’s home opener, Miami posted a plus-39 margin over three sets in the victory against UMBC, winning each one by at least eight points.

While the Hurricanes clicked in a number of categories, there was one in particular that stood out the most.

“I thought our performance and creativity as servers was really crucial this weekend,” Miami assistant coach Jillian Hadder said. “[It is] something we can build upon as we prepare to enter our ACC matches.”

Miami totaled 22 aces across its three matches, while conceding only seven. The former figure is good for a stellar 2.44 aces per set, which ranks No. 17 in the nation and second in the ACC.

A key aspect of the Hurricanes’ excellent work behind the service line was their preparation during the week.

This season, Miami players are heavily involved in working with the staff to develop scouting reports as it relates to their opponents’ passing. Through that, the Hurricanes know just who—and where—to attack when serving.

“I think getting everyone connected in that way was really cool,” Hadder said of the scouting technique. “We put together a montage and the team is able to see what passers we’re targeting, if we’re targeting a seam, if we’re targeting a certain person, what that certain person is looking like when they’re struggling passing. I feel that everybody has been really connected to serving in practice.”

Six Hurricanes notched at least one service ace on opening weekend, with four tallying multiple and three logging four-plus.

Junior setter Savannah Vach and senior defensive specialist Priscilla Hernandez are the two players who impressed Hadder most with their serving, while freshman outside hitter Peyman Yardimci also made her mark on Miami’s sixth-year assistant coach.

Vach, who played just five sets on the weekend, led the team with six aces, followed by Yardimci with five and then Hernandez with four.

While serves were a prime positive from the first three matches, there are still—as is always the case after one weekend—many areas in which Miami must continue to improve. One of those is a particular area of defense.

“I think our block is working very hard in practice. I think it’s something where we’ve definitely been emphasizing getting more touches, getting more stuffs and being more terminal as blockers,” Hadder said. “It’s something we’ve been focusing on the past two weeks in training and something we definitely want to focus on this weekend as we prepare for the physicality that we will see in the ACC.”

While the upcoming weekend will not be league play, it will be a local opponent in USF. The teams have met 14 times previously, with the Hurricanes boasting a 12-2 record.

Miami is 2-0 versus USF under the direction of ninth-year head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara. The win was a 3-1 road decision on Aug. 30, 2013, in his second match at The U, while the other was a 3-0 victory on Sept. 7, 2019.

Now, the Hurricanes will have a chance to double their win total against the Bulls in the Gandara era, as the sides will square off twice in three days.

First Miami plays at the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Fla., Friday at 6 p.m. Then, Sunday at 1 p.m., the Hurricanes host USF at the James L. Knight Sports Complex in the return match.

With all three of the team’s matches thus far played in Miami-Dade Country, the visit to Tampa will provide a new experience for the 2021 Hurricanes.

“There is something really natural, I think, about getting to know your teammates that happens when you’re on the road that we don’t really have to cultivate or manufacture in a fake team bonding kind of way,” Hadder shared. “By nature, when you’re on the road, you sit next to different people on a plane, you sit next to different people on a bus, you have different roommates than the roommates you have at school. And so, it’s just an opportunity to get to know each other in an open way and kind get to know each other’s story. I think that is something really important to know and to respect their teammates.”

With 25 regular season matches still on the docket, that team bonding time could be particularly valuable for a Miami team featuring nine new faces.

The Hurricanes’ Friday outing at USF will be televised on ESPN+ HERE, with live stats available HERE. Sunday’s home matchup with the Bulls will be broadcast live on ACC Network Extra HERE, while live stats can be found HERE.

To keep up with the University of Miami volleyball team on social media, follow @CanesVB on Twitter and Facebook, as well as @Canes_VB on Instagram.