Joy quickly turned into panic for outside hitter Taylor Hollins.
Her University of Miami women’s volleyball team had just knocked off No. 6 Florida State, beating a top-10 team for the first time in program history.
Hollins and her teammates celebrated in a tight circle when they were quickly joined by a few dozen Hurricanes students and fans.
“It was really fun,” said Hollins, a junior who had never seen Canes volleyball fans rush the court before the Sept. 7 match. “But it was also kind of scary because people were on the ground getting trampled.
“People were tackling us. It got a little out of control, but then we were helping each other up.”
No one was hurt, and the Canes set a home attendance record with a sellout crowd of 1,179 at the Knight Sports Complex. But the four-set win over FSU was historic for other reasons.
FSU, which had entered the match undefeated, was ranked higher than any team in Atlantic Coast Conference history. It has since slipped to 11th, thanks to the Canes.
The game was telecast nationally on ESPNU, another first for the Canes’ program. The win also marks the second year in a row that the Canes have beaten FSU in Coral Gables, which is impressive considering the Seminoles made it to the NCAA final four last season.
Ironically, Canes’ 6-foot junior outside hitter Alex Johnson, who hails from Seminoles Country in Tallahassee, earned ACC Player of the Week honors on Monday for her work against FSU.
The Canes are now ranked, in essence, 26th in the nation. That relatively high ranking is noteworthy because not that much was expected out of Miami this season — not after losing four seniors from last year’s team, including all-time greats Lane Carico and Katie Gallagher.
But Canes coach Nicole Lantagne Welch has built a program that has shown the ability to quickly regenerate. UM, which has made three consecutive NCAA appearances, seems to always have replacements at the ready.
Gallagher, for example, has been succeeded at setter by 5-10 Nrithya Sundararaman, a senior who had been a backup for most of her career until this year.
Sundararaman, whose first name is pronounced Nith-ee-ah, said sitting on the bench was “absolutely” difficult, but she nevertheless built a strong bond with Gallagher.
“She’s one of my best friends,” said Sundararaman, who is from Chicago and of Indian descent. “She now lives in Orlando, but she came down for the FSU match to support us.”
Carico, the 2011 ACC Player of the Year, hasn’t necessarily been replaced by one player. Instead, Hollins leads the team in kills and is followed by Johnson, Alexis Mourning, Emani Sims and Savannah Leaf. Of those five, only Johnson and Sims were full-time starters for UM last year.
Meanwhile, the Canes may have unearthed another gem in 6-1 freshman Kelsie Groot. Like Carico, she hails from California, and the freshman made her first start against FSU, confidently contributing several big shots.
“That was a pressure-packed first start of your career in front of a full house and against your team’s biggest rival,” Welch said of Groot’s performance against FSU. “It was a credit to her that she came in and played so steady.”