The University of Miami women’s volleyball team, which has made the NCAA tournament four consecutive years, will make its home debut next weekend with a two-match series against LSU on Friday and Saturday.
The Hurricanes (2-0), who are playing three matches in California this week, are under new management this season as Jose Gandara, 45, has replaced longtime Canes coach Nicole Lantagne Welch.
Gandara has inherited a loaded roster that includes four players who are on the preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference team: junior middle blockers Emani Sims and Alexis Mourning, senior right-side hitter Alex Johnson and senior defensive specialist Ryan Shaffer.
No other school has as many preseason All-ACC players as the Canes.
In addition, junior outside hitter Savanah Leaf played for Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics and leads the Canes in kills so far this season.
The Canes do have two new starters, however.
Outside hitter Taylor Collins, a California native who had one year of eligibility remaining, transferred to her home state to play for San Diego.
She has been replaced by another Californian, 6-1 sophomore Kelsie Groot, who is four inches taller than Collins and gives the Canes some needed size up front.
The other opening was at setter, where Nrithya Sundararaman graduated.
In the first two matches of the season, the Canes have tried two setters, both with nearly identical success.
Junior Blair Fuentez, who is from New Jersey, got the first start, averaging 11 assists per set in a 3-1 victory over Austin Peay. Sophomore Caiti Donahoe, a local star from Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons High, started the second match and averaged 12 assists per set in a 3-1 victory over host South Florida.
It will be interesting to see if Gandara continues to juggle his setters or if he settles on one main passer for his attack. How successful the Canes are at setter could determine whether they keep their NCAA streak alive for another year.
MIAMI DADE COLLEGE
She has got one of the longest names in college volleyball, but that’s not the only thing noteworthy about Eirini Chatziefstratiadou. The 6-1 freshman middle blocker is one of three ultra-talented players who could lead the Sharks a long way this season. The others are 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Wendy Romero and 5-10 freshman outside hitter Silvia Galeano.
Chatziefstratiadou played for Greece’s junior national team. Romero was the 2012 Southern Conference Player of the Year and competed for the Venezuelan Olympic team in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. And Galeano made Colombia’s Under-20 world championship team.
The Panthers, who operated with just one diver last season, have added a second to their swimming roster. She is freshman Lily Kaufman. She joins senior Sabrina Beaupre, a fellow Canadian who was the Sun Belt Conference Diver of the Year last season.
Kaufman and Beaupre are led by Rio Ramirez, the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Diving Coach of the Year.
Junior Ben Taylor, who led the Nova men’s golf team to an NCAA Division II national title as a freshman, transferred to LSU. The Tigers are ranked ninth in the nation in Division I and return four out of five starters.