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Volleyball RedHawks defend home court for first win

The Miami RedHawks showcased why they are the defending three-time Mid-American Conference champions and why they were the preseason favorite to take the conference by storm once again in 2019.

Miami volleyball (1-0) put up a defensive wall and took its first match of the season against Virginia Tech on Friday night, coming out with a strong 3-1 win to open the Miami Best Western Sycamore Inn Invitational.

"Really glad to win the opener" head coach Carolyn Condit said. "We came into this match, knowing Virginia Tech was a good team and had some young players, as we do, but I thought our experience really held up."

The RedHawks stumbled out of the gate in the first set, finding themselves down in a gritty battle early with the Hokies (1-1). The set moved along with neither team gaining an advantage of more than three points.

That pattern held up until Miami exploded behind serves from sophomore outside hitter Gaby Harper to jump out in front, 19-13. From there, the RedHawks continued their run to claim the first set, 25-21.

"I think we just got our groove," senior middle hitter Margaret Payne said. "You always have to adapt, but our coaches do a great job scouting … We went in confident."

Miami's early first-set struggles continued into the second, before the stout RedHawk defense countered the Hokie attack with numerous blocks and snuffed out any chance for a big run. Miami led for much of the set, jumping out to as much as a 19-10 lead before putting the finishing touches on a dominant 25-20 win.

For the third set, Miami found themselves down early yet again. The teams flipped roles, as the Hokies started playing desperately, hopeful to push for a comeback. The Redhawks were able to tie the game six times, before Virginia Tech ultimately pulled away and earned an 25-18 road set win.

Miami jumped out to a lead in the fourth set, and the advantage inspired the players to finish what they had started. The 3-0 start was led by two consecutive service aces by junior setter Morgan Seaman.

There was only one point in the set when Miami didn't have the lead - down 11-10. Junior right side Sarah Wojick put down a kill to tie the game, and from there, the RedHawks remained in control the rest of the way.

All Hokie attacks had RedHawk answers, as Miami took 14 of the next 20 points.Virginia Tech was eventually defeated in a 25-17 decision, giving Miami the match win, 3-1.

"I think it shows our team has grit," Payne said when asked about the slow starts. "We talk a lot about starting strong, so it's something we need to work on, but I think it shows grit and shows character, when we finish strong."

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Payne came out of the first game of the season with 12 kills and a .524 hitting percentage -both team highs for the RedHawks - while simultaneously earning Player of the Game honors.

Other Miami highlights included sophomore outside hitter Sophie Riemersma recording 11 kills, Seaman and senior outside hitter Taylor Daignault combining for five service aces, and the first collegiate kills for freshmen outside hitters Lindsay Taylor and Allyson Severance.

Sophomore outside hitter Tessa Wyner led the Hokies with 13 kills, while freshman libero Logan Mosley tallied a game-high 24 digs.

The Miami defense held Virginia Tech to a .164 team hitting percentage against the RedHawks' .234.

The RedHawks continue play with a Saturday doubleheader against South Carolina Upstate and Northwestern at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.