LINCOLN, Neb. – The University of Miami volleyball team had its season come to an end in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament.
Miami (19-12, 12-8 ACC) last faced Oregon in 2002 and beat the Ducks in three sets, but Oregon evened the all-time series with its three-set victory in the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
"First of all I would like to congratulate Oregon, they are a great program and they played well,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “They deserved to win. I am extremely proud of this group. Looking back where we started, and where we finished, and how we were playing at the end-- it has been awesome all year going into the gym with them. It has been a really great year for us and for me.”
The Ducks took a 1-0 lead in the match thanks to a big performance by All-American Liz Brenner. The junior outside hitter tallied half of Oregon’s 16 kills in the first set to carry the Ducks to a 25-16 win. Miami’s balanced attack was led by juniors Alexis Mourning and Savanah Leaf, who each had four kills in the set.
The Hurricanes battled back in the second set thanks to Mourning and Emani Sims, who combined for 13 kills in the second game against the Ducks. Senior Ryan Shaffer also helped Miami with two service aces, but Brenner, senior Ariana Williams and sophomore Martenne Betterndorf powered Oregon past the Canes, 25-23, to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission. Brenner added seven kills in the second set, while Williams and Bettendorf followed her lead with four kills apiece.
“There were a lot of girls making plays that got us confidence,” Leaf said. We did better than the first game; we made a big change for the second game so I think that showed us that we can beat them. We can show them a better side of us, we didn't really get to show that in the first game, but I think we did in the second."
Mourning continued to carry Miami’s attack in the final set. The second team All-ACC selection turned in four kills to finish with a team-high 15 on the night. The junior added four block assists over the three sets against Oregon.
“We’ve really been working on forcing the middle since we have been successful with it, Mourning said. “I feel like that played out in our game today.”
But Brenner added five kills to bring her total for the match to 20 and help Oregon take the final set, 25-17.
"She is a very good player,” Gandara said of Brenner. “She has done it all year against a lot of teams, so it is a tough challenge. You know, you have to pick your medicine with her; you got to give her some and take some. She had some good numbers, but the rest of her team wasn't as good. She is a tough match-up and a good player."
Brenner’s performance could not have been possible without stellar play from Oregon setter Lauren Plum. The senior missed time with a foot injury, but played a key role in the Ducks’ success against Miami.
“Their setter really kept them in tempo all the time, even if the pass was off,” Mourning said. “They have really good hitters and are a really good team.”
Sims, who finished with 10 kills, joined Mourning and senior Alex Johnson as Canes who tallied four block assists in the match. Leaf ranked third on the Canes with nine kills, adding seven digs and a block assist in the match.
Shaffer and Johnson wrapped up their careers as two of the most productive Hurricanes in Miami volleyball history. The two senior captains each contributed in their final match. Johnson tallied three kills and four block assists, while Shaffer led Miami with 16 digs and two aces.
Setter Caitilin Donahoe paced the Miami attack, distributing 34 assists. Most of her assists went to Miami’s middles and Oregon head coach Jim Moore was impressed with how Mourning and Sims played against his squad.
“I thought they played really well,” Moore said. “They came after us in the middle for sure. They end up having 25 kills out of their middles out of whatever I can see. Thirty-eight swings or something along that line. They did a great job. I thought they played really well. They attacked us very well.”
The Hurricanes, who finished fourth in the ACC, played in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight season and sixth time in program history. Miami is 3-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
“It is always disappointing to end with a loss and I am sure we can get a lot of positives from this,” Gandara said. “We are definitely going to build from here. I look forward to the future, working with these guys."
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