5 Miami Athletes to keep an eye out for this fall

Senior quarterback Cam Ward rushing with the football during a Miami spring practice. Photo credit: Brooke Hearst

As a new season of sports in Coral Gables approaches, the Miami Hurricanes look poised to compete for glory this year. With new transfers in football and experienced rosters in both volleyball and soccer, the ’Canes are giving their fans a reason to be excited. Before the fall campaign starts, let’s spotlight five athletes that all fans should keep an eye out for.

Damien Martinez, Football

Following a disappointing ending to head coach Mario Cristobal’s second season with the Hurricanes, Cristobal and his staff went all-in during the transfer portal window, filling the roster with talent. One of these big-name transfers was running back Damien Martinez from Oregon State.

In his freshman year at Oregon State, Martinez made a name for himself right away, making the All-Pac 12 First Team and winning the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year Award. With his unique running ability and talent, Martinez shined in Corvallis, tallying 982 yards and seven touchdowns while starting in just five games.

In his sophomore season, Martinez put the rest of college football on notice, making the 2023 All-Pac 12 First Team for the second straight year. He was also named a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, which honors the top running back in college football. Martinez ran for nine touchdowns and 1,185 yards, second in the Pac-12.

The former four-star running back will slot himself as the lead bell cow for a Hurricanes offense that lost Donald Chaney Jr. and Henry Parrish Jr. to the transfer portal. Martinez will add even more explosiveness to an offense that also added Washington State transfer quarterback Cameron Ward and Houston transfer receiver Sam Brown.

Cam Ward, Football

Speaking of Cam Ward, the signal caller for the Hurricanes was one of Cristobal’s main targets in the transfer portal this offseason. After previously declaring for the draft, Cristobal and Miami lured the former Washington State (WSU) quarterback from the NFL to Coral Gables for one more season.

Ward spent the last two seasons for the Cougars, throwing for 6,963 yards, 48 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 25 career games for WSU. In addition to the arm strength he displayed, Ward is a true dual-threat quarterback who tallied 13 touchdowns on the ground during his time at Washington State.

Before WSU, Ward spent two seasons at Football Championship Subdivision’s (FCS) Incarnate Word, where he was named the 2021 Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year and led the Cardinals to the Southland Conference Championship and the second round of the FCS Playoffs.

Ward provides some much-needed stability in the quarterback position, something the program has lacked for some time now.

With a senior as one of the best dual-threat signal callers in the country, playing alongside a deep running back group and an explosive receiver room, Miami looks poised to make a push for the expanded 12-team playoffs this coming fall.

Grace Lopez, Volleyball

Following an NCAA tournament berth a season ago, the Miami Hurricanes’ volleyball program, led by head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara, looks to continue its winning ways. Entering her sophomore season at Coral Gables, outside hitter Grace Lopez should be able to pick up where she left off.

In her freshman season at Miami, the Puerto Rican native was stellar, making the 2023 ACC All-Freshman, All-ACC and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Region Teams. While starting in 24 of the 28 possible games, Lopez led the team in kills and finished second in service aces, with 407 and 27, respectively.

The outside hitter is continuing her strong play while representing and leading Puerto Rico in the Women’s North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation NORCECA Volleyball Championship to a Final Four Tournament title.

Entering her sophomore year, Lopez is expected to continue her dominance as one of the best outside hitters in the ACC for UM this season.

Adrianna Serna, Soccer

Following the departure of head coach Sarah Barnes, the Hurricanes’ soccer program looks to find some stability following a disappointing 3-10-4 record.

Led by new head coach and former Vanderbilt associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Ken Masuhr, the ’Canes will try to rely on members of last year’s team to turn their fortunes around.

Now in her fourth season at UM, defender Adrianna Serna is sure to provide some stability to the new era of soccer in Coral Gables. Serna, who only started one game in her two previous seasons, was a workhorse for UM.

In her junior season, Serna was one of two Hurricanes to start in all 17 contests. She also logged the second most minutes, trailing Emma Tucker.

Despite being the program’s top defender, Serna co-led the team in points with Taylor Shell and forward Caroline Hood. The Las Vegas native was also near the top of the team leaders in goals and assists in 2023.

In a program currently undergoing significant changes, expect Serna to be a mainstay as a defender next season for the Hurricanes.

Daphnee Lavassas, Cross Country

Entering her senior year, distance runner Daphnee Lavassas aims to have yet another strong campaign. Lavassas started her UM career off well, breaking into Miami’s all-time 6K top-10 list in her first cross-country race as a Hurricane, finishing 14th overall.

At the NCAA South Regionals in 2021, Lavassas posted a 6K time of 21:05.98, the second fastest in its program’s history. Just a couple of months prior, the Miami native recorded UM’s seventh-best 5K time of 18:00.5 at the XC23 Invitational.

In 2022, Lavassas continued to break records in Coral Gables, going on a five-race win streak in outdoor competitions.

Last season, Lavassas set historic records in indoor, outdoor and cross-country events.

In indoor competitions, she finished eighth and cemented a new indoor program record at the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 500m with 16:18.29.

In the XC world competition, Lavassas became one of two women in Miami’s history and the first since 2005 to race at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

If her previous seasons in Coral Gables are any indication of what she can do this year, expect Lavassas to break even more records in 2024.