Volleyball braces for Active Ankle Challenge Friday
Freshman Sammie Strausbaugh
Freshman Sammie Strausbaugh
JU volleyball coach Michelle Collier is not worried about the challenges ahead Friday or the current struggles. She is looking for a more consistent approach from the Dolphins.

The Dolphins (0-6) head to Gainesville Friday for their next to last preseason tournament for the Active Ankle Challenge. JU’s young group has the tall task of No. 15 Florida (3-2) at 7:30 p.m. in the first match before finishing Saturday with Georgia Tech (5-1) and Louisiana (4-3).

With the new squad, Collier knows a consistent approach will go a long way for the Dolphins in this long road stretch and build confidence for the rest of the season.

“The good thing we are doing is we are playing better, not consistently, but we are playing better every weekend,” Collier said. “Our goal is to keep improving and find a consistency. Serving and passing has been our biggest challenge. We have not served as aggressive as we know we can and we are not passing as consistently as we need to run our offense. We can run it in practice, but we need to get the mental aspect of it in matches. That is something we have definitely been working on.”

The Dolphins come into the week following three tough matches at the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic last weekend. They won the first two sets against Liberty, but fell in the next nine sets to close the weekend. The Dolphins also lost a five-set match to College of Charleston and have fallen in seven of 13 five-set matches last season.

“It was has been our errors that has hurt us in those two five-set matches,” Collier said. “Our morale gets down a little bit and we have been working on that. We have been working with them in keeping them calm and positive. Until we perform the way we want to on the court, these things are going to keep happening. We are good as the team have gone five-sets with so we know we have the potential to play at that level which is good but we haven’t been doing it very often.

“We have to keep fighting in those matches until we get a win. Once it happens then the team is going to get the confidence it needs to come up on top more often in those opportunities.”

One of the early bright spots has been the play of freshman Sammie Strausbaugh. A former setter, Strausbaugh paces the team in kills with 34 and one off the digs lead at 63. She has recorded double-digit kills in the last five matches, including two double-doubles to earn all-tourney honors last weekend.

“Since we have had a lot of freshman play, Sammie has had to play an outside hitter position where she is getting half the balls instead of being in the back,” Collier said. “She is stepping up to play that new role. It’s been extra hard on her but I think she is growing as a player because of it. I think she is turning into a good leader for us and it will be good for us in the future.”

“I definitely don’t have the experience yet,” Strausbaugh said. “I use to being a setter so I am just trying to adjust. You get thrown into different positions as you grow up so it’s just a different thing you have to learn and it will be fine.”

Like her head coach, Strausbaugh knows once everyone is comfortable and play more consistent then things will begin to take shape in a more positive direction.

“Our record doesn’t show for it right now, but we are definitely working hard,” Strausbaugh said. “We are trying to get more people involved in the offense. I think it’s just a confidence thing. We want to get people feel comfortable in what they can do. Overall, we are trying to stay consistent with defense and offense.”

The Dolphins will continue to labor through their 16-match opening road swing, but Collier is looking at the big picture in the end.

“We are trying to build something here that will last a long time and be a great future,” Collier said. “Every day, our goal is to step onto the court and play the right way with intensity. We want to leave it all out there and we are giving it all of our effort then we will walk away with a win or loss depending on what happened. We haven’t done that as often as we need to. I don’t think we have walked off the court yet and said ‘I gave it everything I got and we lost that match.’ That’s been a little frustrating because we knew we can do more. We know we can do better and we haven’t quite yet.”

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