Volleyball team scores spot in NCAA Tournament

When the University of Miami volleyball team made it to the NCAA tournament last year, it came as a bit of a surprise to the players, coaches and fans alike.

The Hurricanes had an up-and-down season with times when the team looked untouchable, and times when it lost close heartbreaking games. On more than one occasion, the Canes blew 2-0 leads.

Miami finished with a record of 18-13 (11-9 ACC). UM made it to the Big Dance for only the second time in the program’s young history, after being snubbed the previous year.

Head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch and her players recognized how special the achievement was.

“You put so much work into a season and into reaching your goals that it was just very exciting to see our name up on the [selection] board and know that we were going to the postseason, something that we really had felt that we had earned a year previously,” Lantagne Welch said.

Rising junior outside hitter Lane Carico couldn’t help but smile looking back on the surprising finish to the season.

“I was so excited. At very first I didn’t believe it and I was like, ‘I think there’s been a mistake,’ because our chances were so slim,” Carico said. “It just seemed like if anything we would have made it the year before…. Once it settled in that we did make it I was just like, ‘Wow, it’s time to get back to business,’ and it felt great.”

Roller coaster year or not, the Hurricanes were good enough to make it to the postseason, proving they belonged in a thrilling five-set match with cross-town rival Florida International in the first round of the tournament.

Unfortunately for Miami, the Golden Panthers won the match 3-2 (25-16,20-25,22-25,27-25,15-11).

Nevertheless, both the players and the coaches fully expect to build upon the success of the past two seasons and make it back to the tournament in 2010.

“I always have high expectations for our team, and I feel like we have a lot of key players back in key positions,” Lantagne Welch said.

Carico, an All-America Honorable Mention for the second consecutive year who is now an upperclassman, will be a key leader for the Hurricanes squad next season. The 5-11 outside hitter finished the season with an ACC-best 506 kills.

She already has high hopes for the upcoming year.

“I expect a lot,” Carico said. “I expect to make the tournament and I think everybody is willing to make changes and work really hard and push ourselves way harder than we have before.”

Adam Berger may be contacted at aberger@themiamihurricane.com