Separated by less than 15 miles, Jacksonville and UNF know each other quite well. Since joining the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2005, the Ospreys have faced the Dolphins more frequently, 14 times, than any other conference foe.
In their two regular-season meetings, Jacksonville lost both contests since the two became league rivals. Dating back to last season UNF had claimed the latest four contests, including a win the 2010 Championships – a game that denied Jacksonville a chance of making three consecutive title games.
Jacksonville exhibited a stifling effort the first 10 minutes of Thursday’s contest¸ forcing 16 misses on UNF’s first 18 attempts in building a 15-point first-half margin. Despite surrendering the lead in the closing stages of the second half, the defense turned up the intensity again and held on to a 56-52 victory
“We are very disappointed because we won the two games against them in the regular season, but they won the game that counts,” UNF head coach Mary Tappmeyer said.
Jacksonville advanced to the semifinals for the fifth-straight year. Only one other school in the conference boasts as impressive a streak. That team, Jacksonville’s opponent, ETSU, has also made the semifinal round every year since 2007. In three of those previous years, the Dolphins and Lady Buccaneers collided. In 2007, ETSU knocked out Jacksonville in the semifinal round. In both 2008 and 2009, they met in the title game with berths to the NCAA Tournament on the line. In both finals, ETSU emerged victorious and established itself as the class of the conference.
“[They play] a very physical game, a very up-tempo game and they do a tremendous job on the boards,” Jacksonville head coach Jill Dunn said. “They have been here the past three years so they have experience and confidence to know what it takes to get to the championship game.”
Like those two title games, ETSU snared both victories during this year’s regular season. Jacksonville held its own with the top seed, falling by seven at home and by 10 in Johnson City, Tenn.
“They have gotten the best of us the past couple years, but I think we’re ready for it,” Dunn said. “I think this is the year that we have got to do whatever we can to take them out. You aren’t going to win the Atlantic Sun Tournament without facing ETSU. We know that day is coming and we are looking forward to it.”
Dunn’s premonition came true and now her Dolphins have a chance to flip the script of years past.