The Miami Hurricanes’ women’s volleyball team had a rare losing season last year at 5-17. This year, the team is 9-2.
Primarily, it’s the return of setter Haley Templeton, a 6-0 redshirt junior who played just three matches last year before missing the rest of season, requiring surgery on both of her feet.
Templeton, who made second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference in 2015 and was the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2014, sparks the Canes’ offense with her precise passes.
“She deserves a lot of credit for our record,” Canes coach Keno Gandara said.
Already this year, Templeton has been named ACC Player of the Week, MVP of the Sunshine State Classic and All-Tournament for the Southern Miss Invitational.
She ranks second in the ACC in assists and last week at Notre Dame set a career high with 21 digs.
Templeton has a good sense of humor about her wear-and-tear type injury from last season, but the Georgia native is serious about school and volleyball.
About the former, she’s a triple major — economics, finance and management. She is on track to graduate in May and will play her senior year while working on her master’s degree in International Business Studies or economics.
Her goals include playing pro volleyball in Europe “for a year or two” before embarking on a career in wealth management or corporate real estate.
In high school, she was Georgia’s Gatorade Player of the Year and a three-time AAU All-American before graduating cum laude and choosing the Hurricanes over numerous other offers.
“I see college as an experience that you get to do once in a lifetime,” she said. “I came to Miami, and I love the city.”
Everything was going well for Templeton until the injury, which coincided with Miami’s losing season.
“I had never been injured before,” Templeton said. “It was hard watching your team struggle and not being able to help.”
Templeton, though, made sure her injury year was not a complete waste. She stayed in shape by riding the stationary bike and doing pool work.
She kept mentally sharp by sitting in on team meetings, keeping score in practices and paying attention in games.
“She was relentless in her treatment,” Gandara said, “and she understood our game plans [during matches].
“We would ask her, ‘What did you see? What are you learning? What would you do if you were out there?’ ”
Templeton said she’s now 100 percent healthy and is working to improve her defense.
Other Canes volleyball players off to fast starts this year include senior Olga Strantzali, who leads the ACC in points and kills per set; sophomore Hannah Sorensen, who is second in the league in service aces; senior Sylvia Hernandez, who is fourth in digs; and junior Kolby Bird, who is seventh in kills.
Miami has also been helped by the return of senior 6-1 outside hitter Brooke McDermott, a former standout locally at TERRA High. She played just 32 sets last year before having to miss five months of action because of surgery on her right knee.
“She’s is one of our better blockers,” Gandara said of McDermott. “She’s a good server and, at times, she’s one of our better hitters.”
McDermott, Hernandez, Templeton and 6-1 senior middle blocker Sakile Simmons were all part of Gandara’s first recruiting class in 2014.
“These were kids who were fired up about coming to ‘The U’,” Gandara said. “It’s fun to see where they’re at right now.”