Volleyball shocks UNC in five sets

The University of Miami volleyball team found itself in a familiar situation Friday night, trailing the North Carolina Tar Heels two games to none. However, the Hurricanes rallied to upset the Tar Heels in five games, putting UNC’s NCAA Tournament hopes in jeopardy.

The ‘Canes (14-13, 9-10) went into the match having dropped their last two contests to ACC rivals. They also lost their last meeting against UNC (21-8, 16-3) three games to one.

This time the outcome was different. Miami hung on by its fingernails, pushing the Tar Heels to a fifth game. In the deciding frame, the Hurricanes totally dominated, cruising to a 15-3 victory.

“We knew our backs were against the wall going into the third set,” said Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. “We needed to make a significant change in our play if we wanted to come out on top. We did just that.”

Not only was this a marquee win for the Hurricanes; it was a match for the record books. Karla Johnson at night’s end became Miami’s all-time kills leader with 1437.

“I’m just glad we got this win.” Johnson said after the match. “I think Val had the record before and she was a great player; it’s just exciting.”

Lantagne Welch said she appreciated what Johnson has brought to the program throughout her career.

“I can’t say enough about Karla,” Lantagne Welch said. “She is just a pleasure to coach and she does it all with an outstanding match tonight, a match in which she etches her name in the record books. I think that’s a tribute to all she has done, very well deserved.”

Even with Johnson’s historic night, it wasn’t easy to overlook the performance of Francheska Savage, who had 23 kills and nine digs. Savage was also able to put the team on her shoulders in the fifth game, nailing five of five kill shots.

“I think Frannie got mad at some point in the match and she used her aggression to just play better,” Lantagne Welch said “We had her in the middle but no matter where she was she did great and she just took over in game five.”

On Sunday the Hurricanes defeated N.C. State in four games (30-18, 30-20, 27-30, 30-23) at the Knight Sports Complex. Savage led all players with 23 kills. With the win, Miami improves to 15-13 on the season.

Richard Lavi