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The State of the U (Part 2) - Grading the Individual Sports

SPORTS-CMP-MIAMI-RADAKOVICH-FL Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Today we’re continuing our “State of the U” series grading each and every sports program at the University of Miami. We handed out grades for the Olympic Team sports in Part 1 of this series. Missed that? Here you go:

Today’s Part 2 will cover the individual sports at the U, while tomorrow’s Part 3 will be the revenue sports (Football, Men’s Basketball, and Baseball) plus our final grade for the overall State of the U. As a reminder, one factor being considered is points for the NACDA Directors’ Cup.

Women’s Tennis: A

  • Final Team Ranking: 9th
  • Team Post Season: NCAA Team Championship Round of 16
  • Ranked Athletes: Daevina Achong (No. 42, singles) (No. 6, doubles); Eden Richardson (No. 6, singles) (No. 19, doubles); Isabella Pfenig (No. 88, singles); Diana Khodan (No. 55, doubles); Maya Tahan (No. 55, doubles)
  • Directors’ Cup: 64 points

The highlight here was Achong and Richardson reaching the finals of the NCAA Double Championship, the third duo to accomplish this in the program’s history. For their efforts each earned All-America honors and finished with the highest ITA doubles ranking of any Cane since 2014. Achong and Richardson each also made the Round of 64 in Singles competition.

Achong and Richardson together with their ranked teammates Pfenig (an All-ACC Third Team selection), Khodan, and Tahan, led the Women’s Tennis team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Team Championships for the 14th time in the last 18 seasons. Deep post-season runs have become the standard for Hurricanes tennis, and this season lived up to those expectations. Congratulations to the Women’s Tennis program!

Men’s Tennis: B

  • Final Team Ranking: 30th
  • Team Post Season: NCAA Team Championship Round of 32
  • Ranked Men Athletes: Dan Martin (No. 60, singles); Franko Aubone (No. 87, doubles); Benjamin Hannestad (No. 87, doubles)
  • Directors’ Cup: 57 points

All-ACC First Team selection Dan Martin (Sr.), a graduate transfer from Dartmouth, led this team as an alternate selection to the NCAA Singles Championship. Although no Hurricanes made the NCAA Tournament, the team had excellent depth making the second round of the NCAA Team Championship before falling to the second ranked Florida Gators. Martin was also an All-ACC Academic Team honoree along with teammates Bojan Jankulovski (Sr.) and Martin Katz (Fr.).

This was the fourth-straight NCAA Team Championships selection for the Men’s Tennis team. Both the Men’s and Women’s tennis programs have strong history of success, so this season was on par with this program’s expectations. The lack of individual players making the NCAA tournament, as the women accomplished, is keeping down this program’s grade.

Women’s Swimming and Diving: A+

  • NCAA Championships: Mia Vallée (1m Springboard, Champion; 3m Springboard, 4th); Emma Gullstrand (3m Springboard, 24th)
  • Conference Titles: Mia Vallée (1m Springboard);
  • Olympic Athletes: Emma Gullstrand (Sweden, 3m springboard)
  • Directors’ Cup: 52 points

Miami’s Women divers had an excellent year producing several All-Americans, conference titles, a national title, and a Tokyo Olympian. As a result, Coach Randy Ableman was named the ACC’s Women’s Diving Coach of the Year.

Mia Vallée (So.) and Emma Gullstrand (Fr.) lead the women’s diving team. Vallée was an NCAA champion in the 1m springboard and was named the ACC’s Women’s Diver of the Year. Gullstrand was also an All-American, and she had the honor of representing Sweden in Tokyo 2021, advancing to the semi-finals of the 3m springboard.

The A+ effort by the divers overshadowed the swimmers, which failed to collect any noteworthy hardware. But, Athletic Director Dan Radakovich seems bullish on the swimming program since he gave head coach Andy Kershaw a contract extension just a few months ago. Anytime a program produces a national champion, that’s an A+ in my book.

Men’s Diving: A

  • NCAA Championships: Zach Cooper (Platform, 2nd); Max Flory (Platform, 5th)
  • Conference Titles: Zach Cooper (Platform); Max Flory (Men’s Diving MVP; 3m springboard)
  • Directors’ Cup: 51 points

Men’s diving came just short of matching the women with its own national championship, as Zach Cooper (Sr.) fell just short of winning the Platform championship. this squad still made quite the splash (but not too big of a splash, that’s a deduction). Cooper and Max Flory (So.) were both ACC conference champions and earned All-American honors. Flory was also named the ACC Championship’s Men’s Diving MVP.

Consequentially, Coach Ableman accomplished the rare feat of being named BOTH the Women’s AND Men’s Diving Coach of the Year by the ACC. Well done Coach Ableman on a successful season with Canes Diving!

Women’s Track & Field: A

  • Team Post Season: ACC Outdoor Track & Field Champions
  • Individual NCAA Outdoor Championships: Debbie Ajagbe (7th, Discus; 12th, Hammer Throw); Moriah Oliveira (12th, 400m)
  • Individual NCAA Indoor Championships: Hannah-Sophia Hall (12th, Shot Put)
  • Conference Champions: Debbie Ajagbe (Outdoor Field MVP; Discus, Outdoor); Jacious Sears (60m, Indoor); Moriah Oliveira (400m, Indoor; 400m, Outdoor)
  • Directors’ Cup: 15 points

The Miami Women’s Track & Field Team was ACC Outdoor champions for the fourth time in the program’s history, and 33 year veteran coach Amy Deem earned ACC Coach of the Year honors.

Debbie Ajagbe (Sr.) set a school record in the discus, was named ACC Field MVP at the ACC Outdoor Championships, and earned All American honors for finishing Seventh at the NCAA Championships. Ajagbe was also one of just two athletes to qualify for the NCAA Track & Field Championships in the shot put, discus and hammer. Moriah Oliveira also earned second-team All America honors for finishing 12th in the NCAA’s.

The women also had solid indoor results with two conference champions, Jacious Sears (Jr.) and Oliveira, and Hannah-Sophia Hall (Sr.) earning second-team All American honors.

In the classroom, seven women were tabbed to the U.S. All-Academic team.

Put it all together, and a conference championship coupled with conference Coach of the Year honors results in this program earning an A.

Men’s Track & Field: A-

  • Individual NCAA Outdoor Championships: Jeff Williams (6th, Discus); Décio Andrade (7th, Hammer Throw); Russell Robinson (Top 16, Triple Jump); Ayman Zahafi (Top 16, 800m); Isaiah Holmes (Top 16, Long Jump)
  • Individual NCAA Indoor Championships: Ayman Zahafi (11th, 800m); Isaiah Holmes (11th, Long Jump)
  • Conference Champions: Isiah Holmes (Indoor Field MVP; Long Jump, Indoor; High Jump, Indoor); Ayman Zahafi (800m, Outdoor); Décio Andrade (Hammer Throw, Outdoor)
  • Directors’ Cup: 22.5 points

Miami’s strong showing at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships resulted in an impressive five All-Americans. Jeff Williams (Sr.) and Décio Andrade (Sr.) were first-team All-Americans, while Russell Robinson (Jr.), Ayman Zahafi (Sr.), and Isaiah Holmes (Sr.) each earned second-team All-American status.

The Canes also performed well in the Indoor events. At the ACC Indoor Championships, Holmes led the way with gold medals in the high jump and long jump, resulting in him being named the ACC Indoor Field MVP. Holmes along with Zahafi would also earn 11th place finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Six men earned U.S. All-Academic team honors. Also off the field, Holmes was also awarded the 2022 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award, one of just ten men bestowed the annual honor.

Both track and field teams performed very well this season, picking up several awards along the way at both the conference and national level. The Women get a slightly higher grade here for winning a conference title and coach of the year. But on the whole, Miami’s Track and Field teams performed quite well.

Men’s and Women’s Cross Country: C-

  • Directors’ Cup: 0 points

Although the Track & Field teams had strong seasons with several athletes taking home hardware and All-American/Conference awards, the Cross Country teams (which have their own Directors’ Cup category) did not fare so well. The Men’s team finished 14th in the ACC Championships while the Women’s Team finished 15th. There’s not much else to say here other than we hope this team improves next year.

Women’s Golf: C+

  • Ranked Athletes: Kristyna Frydlova (No. 204); Sara Byrne (No. 210); Anna Backman (No. 227)
  • Directors’ Cup: 46 points

Golf is on a bit of a down swing of late as the team finished just five strokes shy of qualifying for the NCAA national championship tournament in their regional play. The Canes also finished 9th in the ACC Championships. All golfers were ranked outside the top 200 by Golf Week - a bit low considering this is a program that is accustomed to fielding All Americans. According to GolfStat, the team finished with a number 40 rank.

Despite this, the team still earned an excellent 46 points towards the Directors’ Cup (perhaps best illustrating how schools with less common sports can pad their point totals in this contest). Also a bright spot is that Frydlova (Sr.), Byrne (Fr.), and Franziska Sliper (So.) were named to the WGCA All-American Scholar Team.

For some other Miami programs this might be a B effort, but with several LPGA card carrying alumni of this program we have to be tougher on our grading.