The Miami volleyball RedHawks look to play this season with a chip on their shoulder as the Mid-American Conference voted the Red and White to finish fourth in the East Division – even after winning the MAC Championship last year.
However, their preseason standing is not being overlooked by head coach Carolyn Condit, entering her 35th season at the helm of Miami volleyball.
With the loss of seven seniors, including Miami’s all-time leader in digs, Maeve McDonald, and Olivia Rusek, who signed to play professionally in Austria this past spring, Condit says this is one of the most talented classes she’s recruited. With the addition of six freshmen and Emma Leahy, a junior transfer from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, the roster boasts talent similar to last year’s senior class.
“They are easily in the top three classes that we’ve had,” Coach Condit said. “It reminds me of our 1995 freshmen class.”
Those freshmen went on to win four consecutive Mid-American Conference Championships.
“That doesn’t mean that that can happened all the time,” Condit said. “It’s something that makes me excited because our future is very bright. We have won the last two years and I think that is going to carry over.”
Condit also credits the success to her upperclassmen for helping the team get in the right mindset to be patient and, ultimately, win.
Winning is no stranger to the program, as they have won back-to-back regular season MAC championships, boasting a record of 47-16 since the 2016 season.
“Our motto this year is ‘One More’ so we are going after one more rep or one more MAC championship,” junior captain Margaret Payne said. “We are really driven and the freshmen coming in have really adopted that. We are definitely all in and everyone is all in with this program.”
The roster features only two returning seniors, outside hitter Stela Kukoc and middle hitter Courtney Simons, who have become rallying points for the entire team.
“We all worked really hard to teach the freshmen the system,” Payne said. “Having the upperclassmen help them, especially Courtney and Stela answering questions, has really helped fill the gap.”
The two seniors declined to go home after summer training camp to continue off-season workouts and become better leaders for the team.
“Most of us went home,” junior libero Lindsay Dauch said. “They are really great at making sure we are all on the same page about the way we run our team.”
Condit has been impressed with the competition of the roster early on and applauds the team for how well they are supporting one another, even though they fight one another for playing time.
“Everyone wants to play,” Condit said. “That is not going to happen, but from day-to-day that could change. I think they realize the benefits of competing everyday.”
Condit nodded junior outside hitters Payne and Hailey Stewart as captains for the 2018 season citing their constant work ethic and leadership both on and off the court.
“They have just been very strong in that area,” Condit said. “Abigail Huser has also been a very good voice in our huddles and evaluating different things we discuss as a team. She’ll be a really fine leader for us.”
The high flying ’Hawks already hold a 2-1 record after their season opened with the Miami Best Western Sycamore Inn Invitational at Millett Hall on Friday and Saturday.
The RedHawks swept Saint Louis 3-0 (25-10, 25-22, 25-20), dropped a five set match to UC Santa Barbara (22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 21-25, 12-15), but battled back to beat the University of Cincinnati in five sets (25-23, 21-25, 15-25, 25-21, 15-12).
Their season continues on the road at the Saluki Invitational, hosted by Southern Illinois University on Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.