UM Survives Hokie Rally

October 26, the University of Miami volleyball team suffered its only lopsided loss of the season when they rolled into Blacksburg, Va., and were swept by Virginia Tech.

Saturday night at the BIG EAST Championship in Pittsburgh, the third seeded Hurricanes made up for the loss when it mattered most, thwarting the second-seeded Hokies in five games.

"We're lucky to get a chance to play them again because maybe we weren't going on all cylinders before," UM coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said.

Unfortunately for the Hokies, UM was going on all cylinders in the first two games Saturday night, cruising 30-24 and 30-23. The Hurricanes effectively neutralized middle blocker Cheryl Stinson, who led the Hokies in hitting percentage and was among the team's leaders in most offensive categories going into the match. In both games, the Hokies were held to .188 and .150 in team hitting percentage.

Miami slipped somewhat in the third and fourth games, allowing an opportunistic Hokie team to creep back into contention.

In the final game, the Hokies had momentum as well as the lead on their side, but a command performance by middle blockers Robin Lewullis (Allentown, Penn.) and Karla Johnson (Houston, Texas) allowed the Hurricanes to overpower Virginia Tech once and for all.

With Virginia Tech leading 8-5, Lewullis dropped a spike into the center of the Hokies half of the court and then had a solo block to force a Virginia Tech timeout. Lewullis assisted Valeria Tipiana with another block that gave the Hurricanes a 10-9 lead.

Miami continued to push the game out of reach and then, with the score 14-12 in UM's favor, Johnson executed a block to seal the match and the Hurricanes' chance to advance to the BIG EAST final.

"I think the outside was getting progressively more balls and we needed to get the ball more to the middles," Lantagne Welch said. "We told them that's what we needed to do and they just executed."

On offense, Miami was led by Valeria Tipiana (Lima, Peru) who had 21 kills and Marcel Gamarra (Medellin, Colomnbia), who had 20 kills and a .349 hitting percentage. Johnson had 18 kills and Biz Tyson (Jacksonville, Fla.) had 14. Mallorey James (Tucson, Ariz.) had 60 assists and Gamarra led the defense with 24 digs.

The Hurricanes will face Notre Dame Sunday at 1 p.m. in Pittsburgh in a match that will determine the BIG EAST Champion.

The Irish have won five of the last six BIG EAST Championships. Two weeks ago, the Hurricanes upset Notre Dame 3-2 in the Knight Sports Complex.

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