Miami vs. College of Charleston

NCAA Volleyball TournamentWhen: Today, 5 p.m.Where: O’Connell Center, University of Florida, GainesvilleRecords: Miami 25-5; C of C 26-7

At the high school and club level, the College of Charleston’s Sloane White dominated the volleyball court with her sheer power.

White was an intimidating presence around the net. Her ability to go in for the kill and end rallies made her one of Indiana’s top players during her senior season at Brebeuf Jesuit High School in Indianapolis.

At the collegiate level, the 6-1 sophomore outside hitter has learned that placement and a little bit of finesse can be just as effective as power.

White and the College of Charleston travel to Gainesville, Fla., to face nationally ranked Miami today at 5 p.m. in the opening round of the NCAA volleyball tournament. The Cougars earned the Southern Conference’s automatic bid by beating Furman in the league finals last weekend. The winner will face the Tulsa-Florida winner on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

“I think Sloane has done a nice job of varying up where she hits the ball,” said College of Charleston coach Jason Kepner. “She was very successful last year when everything was perfect. When we set her a high ball she wasn’t as successful because she wasn’t always comfortable doing it. I think this year, she’s gotten much better in transition at putting any ball away.”

It’s not like White didn’t have success last season. She was named the SoCon’s freshman of the year and led the Cougars with 374 kills (2.81 per set) for an attack percentage of .273.

But White realized she needed to make somes changes if she was going to continue to improve her skills.

“I’ve had to get smarter,” White said. “When you’re in college, they look at video and they can see what you like to do, what your tendencies are, so you have to adjust what you do on the court. You have to play around them and vary what you like to do and where you like to hit the ball. You can’t just hit it hard and expect to score.”

Playing on a much more formidable and versatile front line, White has seen her total number of kills drop, but not her effectiveness. White was second on the team with 336 kills and averaged 2.90 per set. White was at the top of her game in the SoCon tournament. She finished the three matches with 51 kills and a .453 attacking percentage to earn the tournament MVP award.

“I think Sloane’s a much more effective hitter this season,” Kepner said. “She’s got better talent around her, so we’re not relying solely on her, but when she gets her opportunities, she’s putting them away at a higher rate.”

The addition of former club teammate Darcy Dorton, who won a national championship at Penn State in 2009, gives the Cougars two formidable bookends on the front line.

“Darcy is a great hitter. She has a heavy, heavy arm,” White said. “It’s nice having Darcy on the other pin. She’s so smart, and it’s a lot tougher for a defense to commit to just one of us.”

The Miami Hurricanes are notorious for their deep serves. The Cougars have spent large chunks of their practice time this week defending that part of the Hurricanes’ attack.

“We’ve got be able to handle their deep serve,” Kepner said. “There are not a lot of teams that can back up as far as Miami does to serve the ball and hit it that deep. Florida has a huge gym, so we need to be prepared for that.”