The University of Miami women’s volleyball team, which has made the NCAA tournament for four consecutive years, will play its home opener 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 being coached this season by Jose Gandara, 45, who replaced longtime Canes coach Nicole Lantagne Welch.
Gandara inherits 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 last summer’s Olympics and leads the Canes in kills so far this season.
The Canes, however, do have two new starters.
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She has been replaced by another Californian, 6-1 sophomore Kelsie Groot, who is four inches taller than Hollins and gives the Canes some much-needed size up front.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 different 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 win over Austin Peay. Sophomore Caiti Donahoe, a local star from Cardinal Gibbons High, started the second match and averaged 12 assists per set in a 3-1 win 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 one more year.
MIAMI DADE COLLEGE
She has 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’s Lily Kaufman, a freshman. 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 Nova’s men’s golf team to an NCAA Division II national title as a freshman, has transferred to LSU. The Tigers are ranked ninth in the nation in Division I and return four out of five starters.