Miami’s head volleyball coach Carolyn Condit didn’t quite know what to think coming into the 2018 season. Now, she’s feeling some deja vu.
While excited before the season, she was tasked with replacing seven graduates from last year’s team, including Miami’s all-time digs leader, Maeve McDonald, and, now-professional outside hitter, Olivia Rusek.
Lucky for her, the team’s two seniors have already stepped into the departeds’ vacated leadership roles.
“We have [outside hitter] Stela Kukoc and [middle hitter] Courtney Simons, who are really awesome with the underclassmen,” Condit said. “They’re very patient and they’re very helpful.”
Condit’s RedHawks have performed so well that Saturday’s win over St. Francis gave them a better record through the season’s first 12 games than Miami’s 2017 Mid-American Conference Champions had at the same point last season.
The statistics of the two teams paints an eerily similar comparison.
With Rusek leading the attack, the 2017 RedHawks hit on 21 percent of their kill attempts. Through 12 games in 2018, Miami has the exact same kill percentage.
The defense hasn’t suffered either. The ’Hawks averaged two blocks a set last season, while they’ve averaged 1.9 this year.
“I think we’re very similar in some ways,” Condit said. “I noticed that our goals that we set and our statistics that we have are very, very similar. We are so close in statistics to last year’s team – I’m kind of excited about that.”
Kukoc has been the team’s MVP so far, so it’s only natural she took home that award in the RedHawk Invitational last weekend. The senior has averaged 2.3 kills and three digs per set during the 2018 campaign.
“Stela Kukoc has stepped up big-time,” Condit said. “She’s just seeing the floor and attacking well. She’s keeping her errors low. She’s setting a great block and she’s really come out as a senior this year that has been there.”
With Kukoc and Simons as the squad’s only seniors, the younger ’Hawks play with the all-day energy of a little kid.
“I think our atmosphere is probably a little higher and more electric than last year, when we had a more calm, experienced team,” Condit said. “But in many ways, some of our players are calm as well and I like the fact that our records are similar.”
Condit likes that fact because last year’s team accomplished what every team hopes for – winning its conference and going to the NCAA Tournament. Miami finished 2017 with a 23-9 overall record, while taking it to another level with a 13-3 conference record.
Right now, at 8-4 and MAC-play starting on Friday, the RedHawks have a long way to go. Condit’s hopes remain high.
“I think they could do even better,” Condit said.