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Published 09/05/2013
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Volleyball Heads West for Trio of Matches

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Traveling over 3,000 miles for a volleyball match may seem strenuous to some, but several members of the Miami volleyball team cannot wait to touch down in California this weekend.

The Canes will play three matches over two days this weekend against a trio of talented programs from California. Miami will play at Saint Mary’s on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET and they will face Long Beach State at 4 p.m. ET and San Francisco at 10 p.m. ET Saturday as part of the Bay Area Challenge.

"We are taking a long trip across the country to play three good teams,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “This will certainly be a good test for us on and off the court. We need these matches in order to get ready for ACC competition. We had our best week of practice this week and we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Miami heads West fresh off a strong showing at the USF Invitational a week ago. The Canes swept their two matches in Tampa, beating both Austin Peay and USF in four sets.

Junior outside hitter Savanah Leaf earned All-Tournament honors at USF after collecting 33 kills, 28 digs, eight blocks and two service aces over two matches. Senior Ryan Shaffer opened her final season with 40 digs in the tournament, bringing her career total to 1,602 and setters Caitilin Donahoe and Blair Fuentez had 48 and 44 assists, respectively.

Preseason All-ACC selections Alex Johnson, Emani Sims and Alexis Mourning were also key components to the Hurricanes’ success in Tampa and figure to be impact players again this weekend in California.

While volleyball is the main focus this weekend, the trip to California is special for several members of the program. Shaffer, Leaf, sophomore outside hitter Kelsie Groot and freshman middle blocker Lauren Howard-Chavez will all be back in their home state representing the orange and green.

Miami’s coaching staff will be back on familiar ground, too. Gandara and assistant coach Lee Nelson played volleyball at UC Santa Barbara, while assistant coach Alex Dunphy was a setter at USC and volunteer assistant Brent Smith played at Pepperdine.

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).