Colleges notebook

Jose Gandara right at home with Miami Hurricanes volleyball team

 

Special to The Miami Herald

All the pieces fit perfectly for Jose Gandara.

The new women’s volleyball coach for the Miami Hurricanes had been serving as an assistant at the University of Washington when he heard about the opening in Coral Gables.

His sister had moved to Miami within the past year, his former college teammate is a Canes assistant and landing this job would mean Gandara would be much closer to his native Puerto Rico, where his parents live.

Beyond that, he was intrigued by coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference and knew that his predecessor, Nicole Lantagne Welch, built a program that has made the NCAA Tournament in each of the past four years.

“The more I looked into the job, the more excited I got,” said Gandara, 45, who was hired late last month.

Lantagne Welch, who had directed the program the past 12 years, left the Canes to become the coach at UC Santa Barbara.

Ironically, UC Santa Barbara is where Gandara played as a 6-5 middle blocker, and one of his ex-teammates, Lee Nelson, will be one of his assistants as a holdover from Lantagne Welch’s staff.

UC Santa Barbara is also where Gandara met his wife, Stephanie Cox, 43, who played pro volleyball on the AVP Tour, as well as internationally. The couple has a son, Lucas, who was born in April 2011.

As for his team, Gandara said he has been impressed so far by the skill of his players.

“We have a talented group,” he said. “They are athletic, fast and competitive. I can see why they have done what they’ve done.”

Gandara said he is looking to hire one additional assistant coach and bring in two more players for the 2013 season. He already has 12 players returning and a recruit signed from the early period in November in Lauren Howard-Chavez, a 6-0 middle blocker from Long Beach, Calif.

Perhaps his biggest chore will be to find a standout setter to replace their one graduated starter, Nrithya Sundararaman. The in-house candidates are sophomore Caiti Donahoe and junior Blair Fuentez.

But Gandara has several months to figure all that out. For now, he is just thrilled to be here.

“I’ve looked at the history of [Hurricane athletics] and the success they’ve had,” Gandara said. “I saw that this is a university that supports athletics.”

NOVA

Left fielder Jose Rodriguez leads Nova (21-13) in batting average (.413) and homers (three) and is second in RBI (25). Leadoff hitter Carlos Asuaje is actually pacing the team in RBI (26) while batting .331. The shortstop also leads in runs scored (27), doubles (10), steals (30 in 32 attempts) and has made just five errors.

MIAMI DADE COLLEGE

The Sharks (33-5, 17-3 Southern Conference) are the top-ranked junior-college baseball team in the nation. They already have clinched a berth for the state tournament May 10.

ST. THOMAS

The men’s basketball team signed 5-8 guard Mikon Hewitt, a second-team Class 4A-2A All-Broward selection by The Miami Herald. Hewitt played his prep ball for University School.

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