Volleyball Claims No. 1 A-Sun Spot, Share of Regular-Season Title
(Photo credit: ETSU)
(Photo credit: ETSU)

JOHNSON CITY, TENN. – Jacksonville University volleyball capitalized its historic season as the No. 1 team in the Atlantic Sun and claimed a share of the regular-season title on Saturday after sweeping No. 2 ETSU, 3-0, on the road. Both the Fins and the Bucs ended their regular-seasons 16-2 in the Atlantic Sun.

Jacksonville finished their regular-season 27-3 overall, on a seven-match win streak, and a perfect 13-0 at home. This is the first team in program history since joining the Atlantic Sun in 1998 to earn 16 wins and win the conference. The 2009, 2005 and 1999 squads finished second in the conference. The 2004 team tied for second, won the Atlantic Sun tournament, and faced eventual national champion No. 6 Stanford in the Tallahassee Regional in the NCAA.

The Bucs ended 22-8 overall, with its only two Atlantic Sun losses against Jacksonville.

"Winning the regular-season title was the icing on the cake for the great season we have had this year,” said second-year Head Coach Michelle Collier. “Our team deserved this championship and I am very thankful for my players and my staff for working hard and believing in the vision we have for this program.

"We knew coming into this match that is was going to take everything we had plus more to beat ETSU. They are a great team and they play well on their home floor. We talked about playing with heart and leaving all out on the court and the girls did that, they played as hard as anyone could ask them to, and they fought for every point. [I’m] very proud of what this team has done and the culture that they are creating for this program.”

With Saturday’s matches complete, the field is set for next week’s Atlantic Sun Championship, hosted by Kennesaw State University in Macon, Ga and broadcast live on ESPN3.

No. 5 Stetson and No. 4 FGCU will open the first round on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. EST, followed by No. 3 Lipscomb vs. No. 6 Kennesaw State at 7:30 p.m. The two winning teams will then advance to Friday’s semifinals against No. 1 Jacksonville at 5 p.m. and No. 2 ETSU at 7:30 p.m. The champion will be decided on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Against ETSU on Saturday, the Dolphins as a team and individually earned numerous season-highs in both overall play and three-set matches.

Jacksonville racked up three-set season-bests in kills (56), total attempts (136), and assists (52). The Fins also earned a season second-best three-set high in digs (65).

Individually, sophomore Sammie Strausbaugh tallied an overall season-best 19 kills and 45 attempts, both which were match-highs. Senior Kendall Courtney recorded a three-set season-high of 47 assists, another match-best. Junior Mayara Prestes tied freshman Rachel Miller with a season-best overall 21 digs and led with a season-high three-set 21 digs. Prestes totaled the most on the afternoon. Lastly, red-shirt junior Taylor Nyquist earned a third-best three-set dig count of 15.

In addition to their numbers, both Strausbaugh and Nyquist earned double-doubles on the afternoon. Strausbaugh made a career-best 19 kills, along with 10 digs for her second straight and 13th overall double-double. Nyquist totaled 13 kills and tied a career-best 15 digs for her third double-double of the season. Courtney also tied a career-high with 12 attacks.

Jacksonville was riding a two-set advantage when the third hit both teams with their highest score totals of the season. JU eventually won 37-35 after 24 ties and 12 lead changes.

ETSU led 14-11 on five straight points before JU controlled the set 20-17 after four of their own resulted from two Kylie Jacob kills, one attack error and one Courtney kill. JU led 23-19 until ETSU gained momentum to take a 24-23 lead after one service error and four straight attack errors. After a Strausbaugh kill and a Courtney service ace, Jacksonville controlled 25-24, but the winner has to win by two points. The game bounced around until it was tied at 34-34. ETSU advanced to 35-34 on an attack error, but JU scored the final three on one service error, one Jacob kill and one ball handling error to win 37-35.

Jacksonville controlled much of the first set, leaping to a 13-6 lead. ETSU managed to come within four at 19-23, but Strausbaugh and Nyquist both made kills to give Jacksonville the 25-19 victory. The second game was much more even to start, as the set was tied at 10-10 on an ETSU kill, but Jacksonville rallied and held its lead for the remainder, winning 25-17.

Next, Jacksonville will compete in the 2013 Atlantic Sun Championship semifinals on Friday, Nov. 22 at 5 p.m.