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Published 08/29/2013
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@CanesVB Opens 2013 at USF Invitational
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team will open the 2013 season with two matches in the USF Invitational on Aug. 30 at the USF Corral in Tampa, Fla.

Miami will play in the tournament’s first two matches and a total of eight matches will be played in the event. The Hurricanes join Austin Peay, Ball State, The Citadel and host USF to form the season-opening tournament field.

Following the conclusion of his first training camp at Miami, first-year head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara is excited to see where his team stands.

“We have had a good training camp.” Gandara said. “We have made progress in all areas and we are excited to compete to learn more about our team so we can continue to improve. We understand that it’s a process and the season is long, so the true test is to keep our composure and our focus and not let the conditions affect what we do or how we do it. We are going to face different opponents that present different challenges and we will be ready to respond.”

Miami opens its season with a match against Austin Peay scheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday. The Governors were picked to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference’s West Division, while junior OH Jada Stotts was selected to the 14-member preseason All-OVC squad.

The Canes will take the court again at 2 p.m., facing the host USF Bulls. The hometown Bulls, who went 17-15 a year ago, bring back six letterwinners, including starters Wylie Devlin, Erin Fairs, Natalia Soares, Ciara Brown and Andrea Rodriguez Gomez. The match against USF will be streamed live via the Bulls’ website and can be viewed for a fee.

Miami, who finished 25-6 a year ago and placed second in the ACC, brings back 11 players from the team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season in 2012. One newcomer, freshman MB Lauren Howard-Chavez, rounds out Gandara’s first roster in Coral Gables.

The Hurricanes are a talented group in 2013 led by senior RSAlex Johnson and senior DS Ryan Shaffer, as well as junior middle blockers Emani Sims and Alexis Mourning. All four earned Preseason All-ACC honors, combining to give Miami a conference-best four selections on the 2013 team.

Junior OH Savanah Leaf, who represented Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics, and Sophomore OH Kelsie Groot made huge strides during preseason camp and are expected to be key contributors this season, too.

Miami has a pair of talented setters in sophomore Caitilin Donahoe and junior Blair Fuentez. The pair has competed all camp and Gandara believes that position battle has elevated both players to a new level.

Senior DS Julia Giampaolo and sophomore outside hitters Misty Ma’a and Eryn Croft will make contributions throughout the year in their first season under Gandara’s leadership.

Following their season-opening tournament appearance at USF this weekend, Miami will travel to San Francisco, Calif., to play in the Bay Area Challenge before playing their first home match on Sept. 13 against LSU.

For all the latest information on Miami Hurricanes volleyball, follow the official Twitter feed, @CanesVB, or "Like Us" on Facebook at The program is also on Instagram (CanesVB).