Head coach Carolyn Condit’s RedHawks sit atop the Mid-American Conference standings after a nail-biting victory against the University of Buffalo (25-15, 21-25, 29-27, 20-25, 15-12) on Friday and a dominating victory over the University of Akron (25-18, 25-16, 25-19) the following night.
Miami holds a record of 19-5 (11-1 MAC) and is the winner of nine straight while remaining undefeated at home during conference play (11-1 overall at home).
“The team is really good at taking everything step-by-step,” Condit said. “So many of our younger players don’t know what these teams are about. We don’t want them to blow it up too big.”
Friday, Buffalo got off to a slow start, hitting only .216 to Miami’s .375 in the first set. The RedHawks contained the Bulls’ outside hitter Andrea Mitrovic to four kills on 14 attempts (.214).
Miami led 4-3 early in the second before Buffalo went on a 7-1 run, forcing Condit to take a timeout. The RedHawks wouldn’t lead in the match until they were up 28-27 in the third set.
Neither team could grab hold of the fourth set as the two teams battled with eight lead changes and seven ties in the first 24 points.
The Bulls opened the set on a 9-3 run, with four kills from Mitrovic to lead 21-15. Miami got within three points, but a series of kills from outside hitters Polina Prokudina and Kristina Nieves sent the match to a decisive fifth set.
In the fifth, junior middle hitter Margaret Payne slammed four kills and blocked one of Buffalo’s in the first seven points to give Miami a 7-3 lead. Freshman middle hitter Corinne Jemison added three more kills in five points to add to the RedHawks lead, 11-7.
Buffalo’s outside hitter Andrea Mitrovic’s attack attempt hit the net to solidify a Miami 3-2 match victory.
“The five set matches that we’ve had, have been with really good teams,” Payne said. “We just knew it was our game and we’ve worked too hard to let it go.”
Payne finished with 11 kills and three blocks. Freshman outside hitter Gaby Harper added a team-high 17 kills and 20 digs.
The Bulls outhit Miami in the match .223 to .193. Mitrovic led all players with 28 kills on 79 attempts (.228). Setter Scout McLerran had a match-high 47 assists.
Saturday against Akron, Miami honored the team’s two seniors: middle hitter Courtney Simons and outside hitter Stela Kukoc. Simons ended with nine kills on 13 attempts (.615), two blocks and two digs while Kukoc finished with six kills on 14 attempts (.429), three digs and two assists.
Miami dominated the match, holding Akron to a .138 hitting percentage, including .031 in the second set.
The RedHawks only trailed five times during the match, and never by more than two points. The biggest and last lead for the Zips was at 9-7 in the second set.
Harper finished with 12 kills and eight digs while freshman setter Louise Comerford had a game-high 21 assists.
For Akron, middle blocker Ashley Richardson ended with nine kills on 19 attempts (.368). Setter Emily Weigand had 19 of the team’s 23 assists and added six digs.
“[The RedHawks] just grind and play the same every night,” Condit said. “If you don’t do that, that’s how you get upset.”
Miami will face Bowling Green on Thursday in its final home match of the regular season. The Falcons are the only team to beat the RedHawks in conference play which they did on Sept. 27, 3-1. The match will begin at 7 p.m on ESPN+.