Canes bag two more decisive ACC wins

Senior setter Katie Gallagher sets up middle blocker Ali Becker during the Canes’ straight-set victory over N.C. State on Sunday. Miami is now 21-3 on the season, with a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament almost certain. Zach Beeker//The Miami Hurricane

The University of Miami volleyball team just keeps on rolling. With two more victories this past weekend against the University of North Carolina and N.C. State, the Hurricanes extended their winning streak to six matches.

They now stand at 21-3 on the year with a record of 12-3 in the ACC.

One of the three matches that the Hurricanes lost came at the hands of UNC back in the beginning of October. On Friday night, Miami got a chance to redeem themselves and made the most of the opportunity, beating the Tar Heels 3-1 in the second round of the matchup.

Miami won by set scores of 25-21, 25-21, 25-27 and 25-20.

“We had a really good match with them up [in North Carolina]. We felt that we didn’t play our best,” head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “We knew it was going to be a great match [this weekend] and for us to execute and play well for much of the match is great against a great opponent.”

The Hurricanes once again used the combination of seniors Lane Carico and Ali Becker to navigate past a very talented North Carolina team, notching 17 and 13 kills, respectively.

Redshirt freshman middle blocker Emani Sims also made big contributions in the victory, coming up with multiple timely kills down the stretch. It’s just the latest contribution in an already impressive freshman campaign for Sims. Her teammates are taking notice of her effort.

“Last year, redshirting really helped her,” senior setter Katie Gallagher said. “She grew as a player and she’s been working a lot on her technique. She’s really executing and making a name for herself, and learning her position really well.”

On Sunday afternoon, Miami played N.C. State, a team that took the Hurricanes to five sets the last time they met. This time around, Miami needed only three sets to beat the Wolfpack. The Canes won the match decisively by set scores of 27-25, 25-19 and 25-20.

Coming off two consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament, the volleyball team is having arguably the best season in the program’s young history. With seniors like Carico, Gallagher and Becker playing at such high levels alongside young up-and-coming players like Sims and sophomore Alex Johnson, it’s not hard to understand why.

“It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work,” said Sims, who recorded 12 kills against North Carolina and 11 kills against N.C. State. “My team helps keep me motivated and helps keep everybody motivated to work hard every day, whether it’s in practice or in games or whatever it may be.”

The Hurricanes have a mere five matches remaining in the regular season, with four of those contests coming on the road. Miami will head out to North Carolina at the end of the week to take on the Duke Blue Devils Thursday night in Durham, and then will travel to play Wake Forest in Winston-Salem on Saturday afternoon.

“Every game from here on out is going to be really, really critical for us to win and we’re ready to do it. We’re excited,” Sims said.