WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2003
Volleyball Preview: Youth Is Served
Aug. 13, 2003
The 2003 edition of Jacksonville University volleyball features seven new faces, including first-year head coach Courtney Dipert, who is in her first head coaching position after serving as an assistant at her alma mater, Florida State, and last season at Duke. While there will be six freshmen on the team, there is still plenty of veteran leadership returning from a squad that advanced to the Atlantic Sun Championship semifinals to give the young Dolphins a solid foundation.
JU will be significantly deeper with 12 players on the roster; however, the veterans will shoulder most of the load until the newcomers learn the system. Senior outside hitter Radka Dimitrova and sophomore middle blocker Danielle Neville each earned all-conference honors last year and will solidify the front line.
Junior Candice Rose showed flashes of greatness last season, recording nine double-digit kill efforts and finishing third on the team with 190 kills. Junior Kelly Ryals got off to a great start last year, leading the team with 18 kills and 18 digs in the season-opening victory over Xavier, but missed 14 matches following her second knee injury in as many seasons. Ryals, who is an active, vocal leader, returned at libero for 10 matches and led the team with 2.94 digs per game. Six-foot-one freshman Eva Stoilova, a teammate of Dimitrova's in Bulgaria, comes in with high expectations, while fellow freshman Kerstin Erickson will also help fill the voids left by the graduation of Kristy Smith, who ranked second on the team in digs, and Alesha Rodriguez, who was fourth in kills.
Sophomore Lindsay Ward, who saw limited playing time as a freshman, could have a breakout season after showing signs of maturity. Ward had a tremendous spring and has impressed the coaching staff with her off-season work ethic.
Six-foot freshmen Petya Borisova, also a teammate of Dimitrova's in Bulgaria, and Shannon Welch, who helped Brentwood High School capture four-straight Tennessee state titles, will help fill the void left by Second-Team All-Conference middle hitter Brooke Ahrens.
The Florida State Classic (Sept. 19-20) will be a test for the Dolphins, taking on the Seminoles and Miami, which both advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year. JU begins A-Sun play on Oct. 3 at Campbell, which begins a four-match road stretch. The Dolphins play the other three Florida schools consecutively to wrap up the A-Sun season, traveling to DeLand to take on Stetson (Nov. 1) before hosting two-time defending conference champion UCF (Nov. 7) and Florida Atlantic (Nov. 8).
The Dolphins will tune up by hosting non-conference foe Georgia Southern before heading to the A-Sun Championship in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 20-22.