Hurricanes Need At-Large Bid

If the University of Miami volleyball team is going to participate in the NCAA Tournament they will have to do it as at-large entry. The Hurricanes (22-9) will need to be selected into the NCAAs in order to see their season continue after falling to No. 17 Notre Dame 3-1 (30-19, 30-23, 30-20) in the semifinals of the Big East Championship at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Indiana.

The Hurricanes, who earned an at-large tournament bid last season before losing to Nebraska, are now sitting on the bubble and will all be sitting by the television Sunday, Nov. 30 when the NCAA field is announced (ESPN 2).

"You know you're sitting on the bubble, and you really take it as it comes." Said UM coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "I think I would be somewhat disappointed, but we really don't have anything to be ashamed of. This is a team that won over 20 games this season and battled injuries much of the way."

Lantagne Welch added that last year's invite to NCAAs in addition to staying in the Big East Conference race for most of this season are a few of the things that might help the Hurricanes earn a spot in the tournament.

Senior Leyre Santealla Sante, who lead the Hurricanes in most offensive categories this season, expressed disappointment at not being able to go further in the conference tournament.

"I'm a little frustrated that the ball didn't bounce our way, but I'm hopeful we can get in the tournament. We won a lot of games," said Santealla Sante.

The Hurricanes sit on the outside looking in because they got off to a slow start against Notre Dame in the Big East Championship.

Lantagne Welch said that the Hurricanes did not start executing properly until it was too late in the match. She also credited Notre Dame for disrupting Miami's offensive flow throughout much of the match.

"I think we started out a little too slow," said Lantagne Welch. "We came out in game three with a great lineup and executed perfectly, which resulted in a win. We just couldn't sustain that in the fourth game. They put a lot of pressure on our passing game which game us trouble."

Miami, the No. 2 seed entering the tournament, was held to a .040 hitting percentage in the first game with the Irish (23-4) turning in eight of their 17 total team blocks to take the first game 30-19. The Hurricanes took a 4-3 lead in the second game on a kill by Francheska Savage that sparked a 7-1 run against the third-seeded Irish. Both teams would tie the game up seven times before Notre Dame pulled away to win, 30-23.

The Hurricanes responded in the third game. Down 17-15, Miami rallied for three straight points taking the lead 18-17 when outside hitter Elizabeth Tyson drilled a shot set up by Mallorey James into the Notre Dame's court. The Hurricanes never turned the lead over in the game again as Robin Lewullis and Valeria Tipiana blocked a shot to seal it 30-23.

But Miami's comeback attempt fell short as Notre Dame took the fourth game 30-20 to win the match. Tipiana, bothered by a foot injury in recent weeks, finished the match with a team-high 14 kills and 10 digs for the Hurricanes.

"Val had her best match since her injury," said Lantagne Welch. "It was exciting to see her play with such fight."

James, also returning from a foot injury, anchored the Hurricanes with 33 assists and 11 digs while coming off the bench. Lewullis, splitting time in the middle and the outside, finished with six total blocks (one solo, five assists) in the match along with 12 kills.

"Mallorey came off the bench and did a superb job having just a little practice time under her belt," Lantagne Welch said. "Robin was solid in whatever role we put her in tonight."

Lantagne Welch was pleased with the effort by the Hurricanes.

"The girls really played hard, you can't fault the fight they showed," Lantagne Welch said.

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