CORAL GABLES. Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team is set to make its 2013 home debut this weekend in a pair of matches against the LSU Tigers.
The Hurricanes are in action Friday in the first game of a two-game set against LSU. Friday’s match begins at 7 p.m., while Saturday’s contest is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Knight Sports Complex. The Canes lead the all-time series against LSU 3-2 and are 6-2 all-time against teams from Louisiana.
“We are expecting a tough challenge,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “They are a good team and they are well coached. They are physical and fast. It will be a good test for us.”
Miami enters its first home match off a solid showing on the West Coast. The Canes went 2-1 last weekend, dropping their match at Saint Mary’s before beating both Long Beach State and San Francisco in the Bay Area Challenge.
The Hurricanes are 10-2 in home openers since 2001. Miami has won five consecutive home openers dating back to 2008.
“We are excited to be home,” Gandara said. “Not only do we get to sleep in our own beds and play in front of our fans, but I also like the fact that we also get one extra day of practice which is huge.”
The Canes have done an excellent job of defending their home court. Miami enters the weekend series having won 18 consecutive home matches. Their last loss at the Knight Complex came on Oct. 16, 2011, a four-set loss to Georgia Tech. But the Hurricanes have been a dominant force at the Knight Complex, going 36-4 at home since 2010.
“The Knight Complex is a great gym,” Gandara said. “I am not surprised by the numbers. You always play to protect your home court advantage, but we approach each match the same. We will prepare the best we can for the match and expect to play well. If we do that, the rest will take care of itself.”
Miami is led by seniors Alex Johnson and Ryan Shaffer. Johnson, who has started every match of her collegiate career and leads the Canes with six service aces, will play her 100th career match on Friday. Shaffer, who leads the Canes with 87 digs, will play in her 100th career match on Saturday.
The Canes also sport a trio of juniors whom have made an impact in their attack and defense. Outside hitter Savanah Leaf leads Miami in kills with 73, while middle blockers Emani Sims and Alexis Mourning rank first and second in blocks with 18 and 15, respectively.
Sophomore setter Caitilin Donahoe enters this weekend off a strong showing at the Bay Area Challenge. Donahoe tallied 105 assists over two matches, including a career-high 64 in the match against Long Beach State. Junior setter Blair Fuentez also has gotten Miami’s attack going, compiling 68 assists over seven sets played in 2013.
“I am pleased with where we are at this point in the season,” Gandara said. “We have made a lot of progress and we are training better. Our players are learning how to make changes in their game and we are getting better.”
Fans attending this weekend’s matches will receive a U Rally Towel, while supplies last and Miami’s men’s club volleyball team will be honored on Friday night in recognition of its national championship last spring.
Miami volleyball season tickets are available for $35. Canes fans can also purchase a combined season ticket package for volleyball and soccer for $50. Single-game volleyball tickets are just $5 for adults and $3 for youth (Ages 3-17). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit CanesTix.com or call 305-284-2263.
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