CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team defeated Georgia Tech in four sets to win its ACC home opener on Friday.
The Hurricanes (8-5, 1-2 ACC) brought a total team effort before nearly 800 fans at the James L. Knight Sports Complex on Friday night. Three Canes recorded double-digit kills against the Yellow Jackets, with different players stepping up at different times to help Miami defend its home court.
“Home wins I think are going to be critical this year in the ACC from what I’ve seen so far,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “There’s no small opponent in the conference, so you got to protect your home court. They’re definitely a team that plays a little different style than we do, so it was tough to adjust to them. But, we found a way.”
It took a few extra points, but Miami took a 1-0 lead in the match with their 27-25 victory in the opening set. The Hurricanes were powered by Olga Strantzali’s seven kills while hitting an impressive .462 in the opening set.
Georgia Tech charged back in the second set, evening the match at one set apiece with a 25-17 win. Taylor Scott was active on the attack for the Canes, tallying four kills in the second set.
The Canes were aggressive out of the break and their intensity helped Miami take a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-18 third set victory. Strantzali and Scott combined for nine kills to lead the Miami attack and help Miami snap the stalemate.
Miami closed out the match with a 25-22 win in the fourth set, securing its first ACC win of the 2015 season. Scott, Strantzali and Kelsie Groot combined for 10 kills in the final set to push Miami past the Yellow Jackets.
“We said after we lost the games last week that we had to win today,” Strantzali said. “We were focused on our goal. We had to do our job, to hit our swings, to serve our serves. We have so many options like Kelsie [Groot] and Taylor [Scott]. We can do a lot of things and not just any one player. We need teamwork to be successful.”
Strantzali led Miami with 18 kills, adding five digs, four blocks and an ace. She was one of three Canes to record double-digit kills, joined by senior Taylor Scott and junior Kelsie Groot.
Scott tallied 14 kills, adding nine digs and two blocks, while Groot finished with 12 kills, 12 digs, two blocks and an ace. Groot’s double-double was her fifth this season and Friday marked the 11th consecutive match in which the junior tallied double-digit kills.
“It’s fun to watch them do that because they know what they’re working on,” Gandara said. “Watching them get excited for each other when they’re making the plays that we talk about making, that’s the exciting part. They’re going for it, they continue to work on their game, and definitely, if we get to where we want to go, it could be really fun.”
Miami got contributions from three middle blockers on Friday as Alexis Mourning, Lucia Pampana and Sakile Simmons combined for nine kills and eight blocks. Mourning led the way with seven kills and four blocks, while Pampana finished with a kill and three blocks and Simmons added a block and a kill.
Sophomore setter Haley Templeton distributed 45 assists and added a career-high 18 digs and a team-high two aces. Senior Kalysta White led all Hurricanes with a career-high 27 digs.
“We came out and had a lot of energy after having a great week of practice,” Groot said. “We are a balanced team and we know we can rely on every single person on the court. We know someone’s always there to have your back, and someone’s always there to put the ball down. I think we are going to keep moving forward in a positive way.”
Miami will round out its first home weekend of ACC play at 1 p.m. on Sunday against Clemson. Sunday’s match is Canes Coalition Day at the James L. Knight Sports Complex, encouraging Miami student-athletes to support their fellow Canes. There will also be free ice cream available prior to the match and a post-match youth clinic and Q&A session with the Canes.
All Miami home matches are played at the James L. Knight Sports Complex on the University of Miami campus and admission is free. Sunday’s match against Clemson will also be broadcast on ESPN3.