Volleyball beats ETSU to earn A-Sun Tourney berth
Sammie Strausbaugh
Sammie Strausbaugh
The JU volleyball team earned its first A-Sun Tournament berth in two years with a dramatic 3-2 win (25-22, 11-22, 26-24, 22-25, 15-11) over East Tennessee State Saturday night in Swisher Gymnasium.

Freshman Sammie Strausbaugh continued to be the Dolphins’ (10-22, 7-11 A-Sun) catalyst with 16 kills, seven digs and five aces to secure JU’s trip to Nashville next week. Three of her five aces came in the final set to help JU’s final points in the victory.

Sophomore Taylor Nyquist chipped with 12 kills, while junior Kyle Jacob added 10 kills and six blocks to help the cause.

“I am so proud of our team,” JU head coach Michelle Collier said. “They have worked really, really hard these last few weeks and I am happy they earned this opportunity. The conference tournament is a new slate and will be a big challenge, but our girls are ready for it.”

The Buccaneers (20-12, 11-7) were led by Megan Devine’s 18 kills and 13 digs. Meredith Hardy added 13 kills and 11 blocks, while Ivey Rice finished with 10 kills.

Trailing 7-1 in the first set, the Dolphins used a 12-3 run, capped on an error to take a 13-10 lead. Strausbaugh used an ace to extend JU’s lead to 15-11. The Buccaneers cut the deficit to 19-17 from a Hardy kill, but JU used a 6-1 stretch to take a 24-18 advantage. ETSU fought back to a 24-22 deficit before freshman Emily Laskelle ended the set with a kill.

In the second set, the Dolphins took an early 5-4 lead before the Buccaneers used a 14-4 run for a 19-8 advantage. ETSU scored six of the next nine points to win the set.

The Dolphins won set three after the break, while Buccaneers used a late surge to win the fourth and force a deciding set.

In the fifth set, the Dolphins earned an 8-5 lead from consecutive ETSU errors. The Buccaneers used a timeout to regroup and tie the set at nine from a block. ETSU went up 11-9 on a Hardy kill before Nyquist recorded a kill to give the serve back to JU. Strausbaugh followed with a kill and three straight aces to give JU match point at 14-11. After a long rally, Nyquist laced a kill down the center of the court to secure the win and punch JU’s ticket to the conference tournament.

With the win, the Dolphins earned the fifth seed and will face cross-town rival North Florida in the first round Thursday in Nashville.