CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team took both matches in their season-opening appearance at the USF Invitational, defeating Austin Peay and USF in four sets.
The Canes won their first match of the day, beating Austin Peay 3-1 to give head coach Jose “Keno”Gandara his first career collegiate head coaching victory. Miami rallied after dropping the opening set to Austin Peay, 22-25, to take the next three in commanding fashion, 25-19, 25-17 and 25-19.
Miami’s hitters shined against the Lady Govs, combining for 53 kills over the four sets. Senior right side Alex Johnson and sophomore outside hitter Kelsie Groot each collected 13 kills, while junior outside hitter Savanah Leaf contributed 11 kills and junior middle blocker Alexis Mourning added 10.
Blair Fuentez, who competed with sophomore Caitilin Donahoe in preseason camp, earned the start in Miami’s first match of the season. The junior setter picked up 44 assists and 10 digs against Austin Peay.
Senior defensive specialist Ryan Shaffer, who entered the season ranked fourth in Miami history with 1,562 digs, added 15 more to her career total. Johnson, who starred on the attack, also led Miami in digs against the Lady Govs with 18.
Miami was back in action in the afternoon against the host Bulls.
The Canes took the first set, 27-25, but USF evened the match when they took the second set, 22-25. Miami regrouped and took the next two sets, 25-21 and 25-16, to clinch their second win of the day.
Gandara elected to give Donahoe the start at setter and the sophomore collected 48 assists in her season debut.
The Hurricane attack was led by Leaf, who collected a team-high 22 kills against the Bulls and was named to the USF Invitational All-Tournament team. Johnson chipped in with 14 kills while junior middle blocker Emani Sims added eight kills.
Shaffer had a strong showing anchoring Miami’s back line, collecting a team-best 25 digs.
"We had a good weekend," Gandara said. "This was a great trip for us. We improved individually and as a team as the day went on. Most importantly, we got to compete and learned a lot about our team."
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.
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