THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
Volleyball returns to the road (again) Friday
Junior Kendall Courtney
Junior Kendall Courtney
The JU volleyball team has nine road matches down, but seven to go as they head to Statesboro, Ga., Friday for the Spring Hill Suites Invitational.

The Dolphins (1-8), who open the season with 16 straight road matches, begin the tourney against Savannah State at noon and play South Alabama at 5 p.m. On Saturday, they will wrap the tourney against Wisconsin at 10 a.m. and host Georgia Southern in the evening at 6 p.m.

The schedule looks like a snafu but it’s something first-year head coach Michelle Collier inherited and definitely didn’t plan. Despite the slate, Collier is trying to make the best of the situation.

“It’s very tough being away from home,” Collier said. “It has been tough being away from our students and the atmosphere we can get from a home crowd. This schedule promotes a bigger challenge than what we expected, but it’s making us a stronger and better team. We are going to take the good out of it and move on from it.”

Since camp, Collier and the JU coaching staff have made sure the squad knows how tough this challenge would be and it would have to an “us against the world” mentality.

“We told them from the beginning there was going to be no easy match,” Collier said. “Nothing was going to be handed to us. We were going to play very tough opponents away from home. The team has reacted well for everything. The adversity is playing on the road for so long and playing very strong opponents and getting beat up on a little bit. But they have kept their heads high, kept fighting and we have gotten better and better at every tournament which has been our goal from the beginning.”

The Dolphins showed some of the improvement last weekend rallying from a 2-0 deficit to beat Louisiana-Lafayette for their first win in the final match of the Active Ankle Challenge.

Freshman Gabriela Roman registered 20 kills and 10 digs in only her third match of the season to lead the JU offense. Freshman Sammie Strausbaugh had 12 kills en route to earning all-tournament honors, while junior Kendall Courtney hit 50 assists for the third time this season.

Like Collier, Courtney knows in the long run a road stretch like this is beneficial when they finally hit the home court Sept. 28.

“I definitely think it will make us tougher because we have played really difficult opponents,” Courtney said. “Even though the results don’t show it, we have worked really hard and learned a lot. It’s been a hard preseason, but we have gotten a lot stronger and we are going to be even better now when we finally have a home game.”

The road trips have allowed the Dolphins for a lot of team bonding in the vans with Karaoke sessions of NSYNC. They have also built their relationships through the hours spent at the visiting hotels and the team meals. Through it all, Collier believes it will benefit the Dolphins down the road.

“They are a good group,” Collier said. “They have fun being around each other so I think it’s been good for our team building, especially with having a couple of new players and players who haven’t had a lot of match experience. Having this time to bonding on the road is going to make them a little stronger mentally than having it at home.

“When you have this situation in front of you, it’s all about how you look at it and how you approach it. It is what it is and we couldn’t change it so we are going to play the team we have to on the road and let’s make the best of us this and make sure we grow and get better. We have to put ourselves into the best situation we can before conference. That’s what we have going for us. We have needed to make the best out of this situation and I think we have.”

Hopefully the Dolphins will have a chance to make one or two opponents go ‘Bye, Bye Bye’ this weekend in Statesboro.

Fans can follow the action through the live links on JUDolphins.com.