University of Miami

UM women’s volleyball team adapts to revamped lineup

The Miami Hurricanes’ women’s volleyball team is off to a 4-2 start despite being without senior middle blocker Alexis Mourning, who has yet to play this season.

Canes Coach Jose Gandara said Mourning had a “lower leg” injury but would not give an estimate as to when she might return.

Mourning started all 31 matches last season, making second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference. Without her, the Canes lost to a pair of unranked teams — Texas Christian, 3-2, and Arkansas Little Rock, 3-1.

“It was disappointing — especially the TCU game — because we had our chances,” Gandara said of Miami’s recent road trip. “But when you have new players, sometimes that happens.”

Of the six players who have started the most matches this season, three are new to the Canes — Taylor Scott, a 5-9 junior outside hitter who started 59 times in two years at Mississippi State, 6-0 freshman setter Haley Templeton and 6-1 freshman middle blocker Sakile Simmons.

Templeton beat out senior setter Blair Fuentez, who started last season, and junior Caiti Donahoe, a local player from Cardinal Gibbons. Simmons has stepped in for Mourning.

Also starting this season is 6-1 outside hitter Kelsie Groot, a redshirt sophomore who missed last season due to injury.

The Canes’ two holdovers in the starting lineup are a pair of seniors who made first-team All-ACC last season — 6-0 outside hitter Savanah Leaf and 5-11 middle blocker Emani Sims.

At defensive specialist, the Canes have had to replace the graduated Ryan Shaffer — one of the program’s all-time greats at her position — with Kalysta White, a junior from California.

Gandara has some options off the bench, including at least three players who were much hyped out of high school — junior outside hitter Misty Ma’a of Hawaii, freshman defensive specialist Sylvia Hernandez of Miami’s Westminster Christian and freshman outside hitter Brooke McDermott of Miami’s Terra.

Miami’s schedule, which wasn’t too hard early — no ranked teams among their first six opponents — is about to get tougher.

In addition to a road match this weekend at No.4 Wisconsin, the Canes will play host to No.7 Florida State on Oct.5 and visit the Seminoles on Nov.28.

Miami also plays at No.17 North Carolina on Oct.31 and at No.20 Duke on Sept.28.

Louisville, which was No.24 until dropping out of the most recent poll, visits Miami on Nov.7.

And from Sept.20 until the regular season ends on Nov.28, the Canes will play exclusively against the difficult ACC.

The Canes have a lot to live up to in volleyball. The program has made the NCAA tournament five consecutive years, including last season, which was the first under Gandara.

“We have eight new kids this year,” Gandara said. “This is a whole new ballgame.”