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The State of the U (Part 1) - Grading The Olympic Team Sports

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The 2021-2022 seasons have come to a close, and new athletic director Dan Radakovich is preparing for his first full year leading the University of Miami athletic department. He’s got his work cut out for him. The bottom line measurement for any college athletics program is on the field success. This past year some programs reached new heights, some have a promising upward trajectory, and some still seem far removed from their full potential.

In grading the “State of the U,” one metric we’ll be considering is how well Miami performed in the NACDA Directors’ Cup. For unfamiliar Canes fans, the Directors’ Cup annually ranks every Division I school by awarding points for postseason success. A national championship is worth a maximum 100 points. No sport gets weighted greater than another (an NCAA women’s lacrosse championship is worth just as many points as an NCAA football national championship). Each school’s top 19 sports are ranked (the average NCAA Division I school fields 19.1 sports). You can read more about the Directors’ Cup scoring structure here.

We’re covering the State of the U this week in a three-part series. In this Part 1 post, we’ll be reviewing and grading the non-revenue team sports (Women’s Basketball, Women’s Volleyball, Women’s Soccer, and Women’s Rowing). In tomorrow’s Part 2, we’ll be reviewing and grading the Individual Sports (Men’s and Women’s Tennis, Men’s and Women’s Track & Field, Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, Men’s Diving, Women’s Swimming & Diving, and Women’s Golf). Lastly, Part 3 will cover the revenue generating sports (Football, Men’s Basketball, and Baseball) as well as the final, overall program grade.

Women’s Basketball: A

  • Season Record: 21-13 (10-8)
  • Post Season: Finals of ACC Tournament; Second Round of NCAA Tournament
  • Directors’ Cup: 50 points

Katie Meier did it again. Since 2011, the Women’s Basketball team has made the NCAA Tournament an incredible 9 times! After a tough start to the season, Coach Meier’s team rebounded and fought its way to the ACC conference championship game (for the first time in program history!!) and the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Stars of this year’s squad included Kelsey Marshall (Sr.), an All-ACC Honorable Mention, and Ja’Leah Williams (Fr.), an ACC All-Freshman Team selection. Williams, who battled scoliosis in high school, also received the 2022 Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award from the ACC media. In the classroom, Marshall and Williams were also selected to the All-ACC Academic Team along with teammate Destiny Harden (Sr.), the first time since 2017-18 that three Hurricanes were selected.

Women’s Basketball is one of the most consistent programs in the athletic department. The only knock is that Meier’s teams have yet to break through to the Sweet Sixteen. Break that barrier, or bring home the program’s first conference championship, and it’s an A+ season.

Women’s Volleyball: A-

  • Season Record: 25-5 (15-3)
  • Post Season: Second Round of NCAA Tournament
  • Directors’ Cup: 50 points

The Women’s Volleyball team has quietly built itself into a very competitive program. Volleyball is relatively new to UM, as Miami did not field a volleyball team from 1982-2000. Since current head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara was hired in 2013, Miami has finished with a winning record in 7 of his 9 seasons at the helm. In three of those seasons, including last season, the Canes advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Leading the way for this team was Savannah Vach (So.), a First Team All-ACC selection, Angela Grieve (So.) and Janice Leao (Jr.), both Second Team All-ACC selections, as well as Peyman Yardimci (Fr.), an ACC All-Freshman Team. Leao had a particularly strong season as she was also an All-American honorable mention and was selected to this year’s U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team. Grieve, Yardimici, and Priscilla Hernandez (Sr.) were also named to the All-ACC Academic Team.

While the Canes tend to mop up lesser competition, they’re having trouble breaking through against elite teams - finishing 0-4 against ranked competition last season. This team is close to making mainstream news, and very well could next season with the majority of their award-winners returning.

Women’s Soccer: C-

  • Season Record: 4-12 (1-9)
  • Post Season: none
  • Directors’ Cup: 0 points

Hurricanes Soccer is struggling. While this year was an improvement over their 1-11 mark from the previous season, the women’s soccer team hasn’t had a winning season since the ‘16-’17 campaign. If you squint, there are a few bright spots - Selena Fortich (Sr.) and Melissa Dagenais (Jr.) made the All-ACC Academic Team, and next year’s recruiting class includes some solid talent. But on the whole, this is the only team sport that’s consistently losing.

Women’s Rowing: B-

  • Post Season: 5th at ACC Championships
  • Directors’ Cup: 0 points

While some Miami athletic programs have a rich history of championships and all-americans, Women’s Rowing isn’t one of them. Although Women’s Rowing failed to qualify for the 22 team NCAA Tournament, this squad is trending upwards. Miami finished 5th in the ACC, which was the best finish in Women’s Rowing history. For the effort, Miami earned its first CRCA Ranking in program history - clocking in at No. 20 in the final poll.

Alyssa Bacchus (Fr.) and Constance Stirling (So.) respectively earned First and Second All-ACC honors in leading the first varsity eight boat to a fourth-place finish. Bacchus was the first Miami rower selected to the first-team all conference team in the program’s history. Additionally, a total of six rowers earned All-ACC Academic honors.

Long-time head coach Dave Anderson departed the team after the season, and Miami hired Alabama assistant and Team Canada veteran James Mulcahy as its new head coach to build off last year’s high water mark (pun intended). While this program is trending upwards, the team needs to break through to the NCAA Tournament - and earn some Directors’ Cup points - to earn a B or better grade.