JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University volleyball continued its winning ways Tuesday night with a come-from-behind five set victory over Bethune-Cookman at UNF Arena. The Wildcats took sets one (25-22) and three (25-19) to pressure the Dolphins, but Jacksonville rallied back after a 25-20 win in set two with an identical score in game four (25-20), before it outlasted the visitors in the fifth, 15-12.
"I'm proud of the team for playing with some guts there in the end in the fifth set," stated Head Coach Julie Darty. "A lot of credit to Bethune – they get better every time we play them; they're gritty, scrappy defenders and the ball's not going to die on their side without bodies hitting the floor."
Sophomore Alleah Stamatis set a new career best with 60 assists as she to moved into the program's top 15 all-time with 575 career assists. Classmates Natalie Wehner (20 kills, 16 digs) and Amarrah Cooks (16 kills, 4 blocks) also had career nights.
Noting sophomore Wehner's second double-double performance in three games, Darty added, "It was a lot for Natalie to carry such a big part of the offensive load tonight. When we passed, we were efficient at finding our middles. Overall, Nat put up some big numbers."
Seniors Cristina Finan and Jessica Armstrong also added double-digit kill performances with 14 and 10, respectively. As a team, the Dolphins hit .200 or better in three of the five sets. Jacksonville improves to 9-7 on the year, and 51-0 all-time against the Wildcats.
"This is a match that I don't look forward to because every year [Bethune-Cookman Head Coach] Brittany [Williams] is getting them better; they're growing and getting better."
With three matches in past five days, Darty and the team will have two days to recuperate and prepare before this weekend's ASUN battles with Kennesaw State and Lipscomb.
"It's nice to get another win under our belt before we go into a huge conference weekend here. I'm excited to get some time back in the gym with the team before we have to play again."
Jacksonville led 4-3 early on in the match opener, but the Wildcats (4-8) answered back with four straight points to lead 7-4. The visitors held a slim lead through most of the set, before kills from Cooks and freshman Hannah Marchand tied the set at 16. The teams traded points and evened the score three more times before Bethune-Cookman finished off five of the last seven points for a 25-22 win.
The Dolphins thwarted an 11-8 Wildcat lead in set two, with six straight points behind freshman Kendall Murr at the service line. Armstrong, Cooks, and Wehner all tallied kills during the run and Murr was credited with two aces in the rally to list Jacksonville to a 14-11 advantage. Bethune-Cookman fought back with three ties in the score – and briefly regained the lead at 19-18 – but the Dolphins were not going to let the Wildcats off easy and scored seven of the set's final eight points for a 25-20 victory to even the match.
The third game was much of the same as both teams battled for an advantage and accumulated nine deadlocks to leave the set tied at 12. However, a decisive 6-2 run from the Wildcats in the middle of the set put the game out of reach. Despite kills from four different Dolphins – Wehner, senior Olga Nushtayeva, Finan, and Armstrong – down the stretch, Bethune-Cookman threatened the match with a 25-19 win.
Staring down an early 6-3 deficit, Jacksonville found a spark with Nushtayeva serving and took five of the next six points to cut its deficit to one, 8-7. Fighting their way back into the match, the Dolphins rallied with a 10-3 run to soar ahead, 21-15. Finan and Wehner had two kills apiece in the rally. The Wildcats attempted a comeback and answered each Dolphin point thereafter, but Jacksonville's mid-set streak kept the visitors at bay and sent the match to a tiebreaker, 25-20.
Tied at 4, Jacksonville again cruised in the set with four of the next five points and led 8-5 at mid-set. Bethune-Cookman threatened out of the brief intermission with a 4-2 rally to come within one, 10-9. After a quick timeout to reevaluate, Jacksonville got down to business and put the set away as Cooks and Armstrong tallied two kills each and Wehner added another to lift the Dolphins to victory, 15-12.
Alondra Bautista led the Wildcats with 20 kills and 20 digs, while Phalen Clark (49 assists, 15 digs) and Rakaya Neely (10 kills) combined for 11 blocks for Bethune-Cookman.
The Dolphins return to action this weekend when they play host to Kennesaw State Friday, Oct. 6 and Lipscomb Saturday, Oct. 7 at UNF Arena. First serve for both matches is 4 p.m.