Friday, December 27, 2013

A Look Back at the A-Sun's 2013 Champions

As 2013 comes to a close, a quick look back shows that the year was a championship season in at least one sport for nine of the A-Sun's 10 members.

Check out the photo blog below to recap each of the A-Sun's 2013 Champions.


Men's Tennis Tournament Champs

Baseball Tournament Champs

Volleyball Regular Season Co-Champs

Women's Golf Tournament Champs

Men's Soccer Tournament Champs

Women's Tennis Regular Season Champs


Men's Basketball Tournament Champs

Women's Basketball Regular Season Champs

2012-13 All-Sports Champs

Women's Indoor Track & Field

Women's Outdoor Track & Field (8 straight outdoor titles)

Volleyball Regular Season Co-Champs, Tournament Champs

Women's Soccer Tournament Champs

Kennesaw State

Men's Indoor Track & Field Champs

Men's Outdoor Track & Field Champs


Men's Cross Country Champs

Women's Cross Country Champs


Men's Basketball Regular Season Champs

Baseball Regular Season Champs

North Florida 

Men's Golf Tournament Champs

Men's Tennis Regular Season Champs

Sand Volleyball Regular Season & Tournament Champs

Women's Tennis Regular Season & Tournament Champs

Softball Regular Season Champs


Women's Basketball Tournament Champs

USC Upstate

Softball Tournament Champs

Thursday, December 19, 2013

'Tis the Season For #ASunWBB Giving

Atlantic Sun Women’s Hoops is about more than a game. Around the league teams have put an effort out to help the community, while balancing practices, games and school work.

FGCU started giving back to the community during the off season as the squad spent time volunteering at the Harry Chapin Food Bank. The team volunteered as part of the “Fill Our Fleet to Feed the Hungry” initiative that encouraged local shoppers to load donations onto LeeTran buses parked in 34 Publix parking lots on Sunday.  After loading, the buses went to the Harry Chapin Food Bank’s Fowler Street location where the team joined more than 100 other volunteers in unloading the donations.  With the help of the team, the packed buses were unloaded in just a few hours. 
The Mercer women’s basketball team participated in the Be a Good NeighBEAR service event before the season kicked off. The event involved several groups who participated in five different neighborhood cleanups across the city with local neighborhood associations.

Next, North Florida started the season of giving as the team volunteered at Halloween Doors & More which I a program that allows children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and their families to enjoy Halloween festivities. To date, the event has raised more than $2.8 million for the Community PedsCare program. The Ospreys escorted children through the different themed rooms that allowed children to get their faces painted, hair done and receive candy and gifts.
ETSU brought helping hands into the community during Thanksgiving in multiple facets.

The Buccaneers started the giving season as the team volunteered their time to mentor youth from Andrew Johnson Elementary.  Later that day several Bucs donated their time to bag groceries for the United Way at Food City near ETSU’s campus.

 “Thanksgiving week is the perfect time for our team to give back to the Johnson City community,” said first-year ETSU head coach Brittney Ezell. “We, as a program, have a multitude of things to be thankful for and what better ways to express our gratitude than to have our players serve others.”
Kennesaw State got into the holiday giving spirit as the Owl’s women’s basketball team partnered with the 
MUST Ministries Toy Shop in helping local families shop for Christmas gifts at the toy shop. The toy shop consisted of gifts and goods that were donated in order to help families in need.
Jacksonville will look to assist with the Christian Laettner Second Harvest Clinic for Kids on December 28th. During the clinic the children of the Riverside Presbyterian Youth Basketball League, which consists of more than 80 girl’s and boy’s teams, will receive instruction from former NBA player Christian Laettner and the Dolphins who will lend their hands with the free camp and also facilitate a food bank collection for Second Harvest.
"Our program prides itself on serving the community,” said Head Coach Yolett McPhee- McCuin. “Every month, we have participated in at least one community service event and this month’s is special because it is Christmastime. This is when people need others the most for various reasons and we plan to do whatever we can to bring warmth during special this time of the year. "

Friday, December 13, 2013

Social Media Map: #ASunMBB Hits The Road

Only 35 days into the 2013-14 Atlantic Sun Men’s Basketball season and road contests have begun to stack up for league teams with a combined 57 games away from their home arenas.

Life on the road for A-Sun student-athletes can be tough with early departures and late arrivals coupled with studying for classes on the road, but it also takes them to places otherwise would have gone unseen.

Take a look through this social media travel map of some of the trips, adventures and historic arenas that A-Sun teams have come across so far this season - starting with a winter wonderland that North Florida encountered on its trip to Bloomington.

An Upstate fan added some flair to Tennessee's campus before the game vs. the Spartans
The Ospreys' Dallas Moore dropped 27 points in IU's Assembly Hall that has housed three NCAA Championship teams.
Northern Kentucky hits the sites in New Orleans before an overtime victory vs. Tulane.
The Norse appeared in the UCF Cure Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Behind 37 points from Jakob Gollon, Mercer won a triple overtime contest at Valparaiso
Prior to the Valpo win, Mercer practiced at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse:
Lipscomb faced Georgetown in the Verizon Center; Home of the Washington Wizard's and NHL's Capitals.
Stetson has played on some "interesting" courts on the road this season.
The Hatters also took part in the Gulf Coast Showcase at Fort Myers' Germain Arena.
NFL Legend Jerry Rice talked with Kennesaw State prior to its game at Mississippi State
ETSU squared off in Georgia Tech's remodeled Hank McCamish Pavilion.
An early shoot-around allowed FGCU time to adjust to FIU's new court.
FGCU's Bernard Thompson came prepared for the Eagles' trip to Nebraska.
A look inside the Jacksonville huddle at in-state foe, Florida State
Finally, USC Upstate started off the season right with a win at Virginia Tech in its first game of the season

Friday, December 6, 2013

Shift in Attitude Led to Success for Courtney and the Dolphins

Winston Churchill once said that attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Jacksonville senior Kendall Courtney and her Dolphins personify that statement, as they concluded a record-setting 2013 season in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship Thursday evening. The Dolphins fell to fifth-seeded Florida 3-0, but completed an amazing 2013 season in which they enjoyed a list of impressive accomplishments, including a turnaround from 10-24 overall (7-11 A-Sun) in 2012 to 30-4 overall and 16-2 in A-Sun play this season.
It is fitting that Courtney led the team in assists with 24 as she concluded her collegiate career against the Gators. Leading the team statistically is nothing new for Courtney, as she has led the Dolphins statistically and been among the conference leaders in each of her four years at JU. She has also garnered A-Sun Academic honors all four years along with All-Conference Second-Team and Player of the Week honors this season.

Courtney admits that as a younger player her expectations for herself and her team were high.

"I set pretty high goals for myself coming into the program, because I am hard to please," said Courtney.

As a freshman, she earned A-Sun All-Academic honors and was named to the Dean’s List. She was the only player to start in all 30 matches in 2010 and led the team in assists (1,095), service aces (50) and double-doubles (assists & digs) with seven.

In her sophomore season, in which she was a captain, Courtney was again an A-Sun All-Academic selection and was named to the President's Honor Roll. On the court she started in all 31 matches and led the A-Sun in overall assists (1,222) and ranked second in service aces (54).

Individually Courtney was achieving, but it was not translating into success for the team. ""In my first two seasons, my goals were centered around my personal play, and that didn't work out too well," she says. "I was captain my sophomore year, and I really struggled with that too."

In Courtney's junior season Michelle Collier was hired as head coach of the Dolphins, bringing with her the philosophy of "team first" that has pervaded the program and propelled JU to its place among the nation's leaders in team - not individual - statistical categories. Courtney points to that event as the turning point for both her attitude and that of the team.

"Michelle brings a lot of energy and passion to the game, and she really makes you look forward to practice," said Courtney. "She really turned things around. Before she arrived I had gotten to the point where I really didn't look forward to practice and had lost some of my excitement for the game, but all that changed. I changed my attitude toward everything about volleyball, and she has shown us what an opportunity this is and how rare it is to be able to compete like we have at the Division I level."

Courtney's success has been well documented, and Collier is quick to point out how fortunate she was to inherit a player like her. As a junior she was one of two Dolphins to play in all 127 sets and was once again recognized academically by membership on the A-Sun Academic All-Conference team. On the court she led JU and ranked fifth in the A-Sun with 1,211 assists and ranked first on the team in digs (355) and second in aces (24).

Kendall considers herself a player that leads by example, and says the change in attitude was also adopted by her teammates, something that not only led her to individual success but to her team's success as well.

"When we bought into what Michelle was trying to accomplish, that really helped put it all together," says Courtney. "I changed my attitude, and I really think that my leadership has improved the most in the last two years. 

As a senior, the 2013 season has been a memorable one. She competed in 126 sets, starting in all 34 matches. She became the Atlantic Sun career leader in service aces after JU's win over North Florida on Oct. 10 and finishes her career with 168. She earned selection as the 2013 Atlantic Sun Tournament MVP and membership to the All-Tournament team, along with A-Sun All-Conference Second Team honors. She earned her first career Player of the Week nod on Sept. 4, and wrapped up the season as the eighth-ranked career active leader in the NCAA in assists.

"This season was unexpected to me," says Courtney. "Not to say that the past three years have been disappointing, but the program was not where I had hoped it would be. This season has been a total team effort, because we have a tremendous team chemistry and we are all on the same page."

Collier credits Courtney for her change in attitude, but is also quick to point out that much of her success also comes from a well defined work ethic and passion for the game.

"Kendall is a rare kind of player," says Collier. "We share a love and passion for the game, and that helps us see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.

"She is also an extremely hard worker, one who not one day would ask for anything special or a break in anything, and she would go through a wall for this team if we asked her to. That has earned her a great deal of respect from her coaches and teammates. She is more patient with other players now because her focus is about the team, and she has become a great role model because of that.

"Kendall is basically a regurgitation of what this program is all about," Collier concludes. "It is hard to find a player like her."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dolphins' Championship Another Highlight in Memorable Season

What a difference a year makes.

Last season the Jacksonville Dolphins also concluded their season in the A-Sun Championship, but with a much different result. JU dropped its first round match to cross-town rival North Florida 3-0 and finished 10-24 overall and 7-11 in the A-Sun.

But to many familiar with the JU program and A-Sun volleyball, that was the conclusion of one season and the beginning of something special.

A year later the Dolphins are the 2013 A-Sun Champions on the strength of their dramatic 3-2 victory against A-Sun perennial power Lipscomb. The defeat of the Lady Bisons was the second of the season for the Dolphins and the tournament title, their second (2004), serves as another milestone in a season that has many highlights.

“I am so proud of the way we handle ourselves as a team,” says JU Head Coach Michelle Collier. “This team has such a great chemistry, which is a huge factor in this sport, and they are completely sold out into what we are trying to accomplish and how we do that.  Last season it was almost like a relief when we won a match, and this year they step onto the court expecting to win. They play with heart and passion, and I couldn’t be more proud of them for this season.”

The Dolphins have accumulated 29 wins to tie the A-Sun record for wins in the rally-point scoring system, which began in 2001.

Dolphins senior Kendall Courtney became the A-Sun career leader in service aces while also completing her final season as the leading career active leader in assists. Courtney finished with 11 double-doubles and finished fifth and third in assists and service aces, respectively.

Collier earned A-Sun Coach of the Year honors as she led the Dolphins to a share of the regular season championship, their program’s second tournament championship and a historic season. Statistically the Dolphins were also some of the best in the conference and in the nation, ranking in the top three in the conference in five of the A-Sun’s statistical rankings. Nationally the Dolphins checked in among the country’s top 50 in five categories – W/L Pct., Aces Per Set, Kills Per Set, Hitting Pct. and Assists Per Set.

Four of Collier’s pupils were honored in the 2013 A-Sun regular season awards– Sammie Strausbaugh, Courtney, Kylie Jacob, and Rachel Miller. Strausbaugh, the 2012 A-Sun Freshman of the Year, was an All-Conference First-Team selection after leading the conference in service aces per set (.36), ranking seventh in kills per set and finishing the season among the top 10 conference players in double-doubles with 12.

Courtney and Jacob were also All-Conference Second-Team selections and Miller earned membership to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team.

So what made the difference in 2013? Strausbaugh credits a renewed work ethic, experience and a focus that stems from solid team chemistry.

“I think our success this season is a result of many things. We have a lot more experience as a team this season, led by some great players who have enjoyed solid careers in their own rights,” says Strausbaugh. “This team has a mindset to win, to come to work hard every day, when before I don’t think that type of commitment was there. Now we are not going to let anyone outwork us, and that helps us play with a lot more consistency. And I think one of our biggest strengths is our chemistry. This is a very close-knit team that enjoys each other and at the same time focuses on volleyball when it is time to do so.”

Collier is not only proud of her team’s accomplishment, but understands what their success means for the A-Sun as the conference continues to make strides and teams continue to improve and seek their place among the nation’s best.

“This has been a great year from a competitive standpoint for the A-Sun,” she says. “We saw it from Stetson and coming into the championship FGCU was playing well again, then you have a team like Lipscomb who is always going to be there. Teams in the A-Sun are coming prepared to play, and I think we will have three teams in the top 100 of the RPI ratings after this weekend. The future is definitely bright for A-Sun volleyball.”

The Dolphins now have a week to wait until the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show next Sunday, Dec. 1, to discover who and where they will continue the ride that Collier says has been a lot of fun.

“I have said this before, but the thing that makes me the happiest about this team is the fact that they are having fun,” says Collier. “They really enjoy each other, and it is so important that they enjoy this experience. I know they do because it has translated into success on the court. They want to practice, they listen to us, and they play for each other. They are in this for the right reason, and that is what makes this team truly successful.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lipscomb's "More Aggressive" Nature is Becoming for the Lady Bisons

Lipscomb volleyball has made quite a run in the in the last decade, as the Lady Bisons are participating in their ninth straight A-Sun Championship with tournament titles in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. It helped that Rosenthal’s teams have been blessed with talent such as A-Sun Players of the Year and Tournament MVP selections such as Katie Rose, Stefine “Jake” Pease and two-time winner Alex Kelly.

Now the Lady Bisons move into the A-Sun Championship final for the fourth time in six years, finding that the third time was the charm against defending tournament champion ETSU. Lipscomb now has its sights set on becoming the only team in A-Sun history other than UCF to win at least five Championship titles.

Yet even with the tremendous success that included two seasons of posting undefeated records in A-Sun play (20-0 in 2009-10, 10-0 in 2010-11), a look at this year’s numbers indicates that this Lady Bison team, on paper, is the best that Lipscomb has fielded under Rosenthal.

Lipscomb has a hitting percentage of .276, averages 14.22 assists per set and 15.30 kills per set, which incidentally, leads the nation. All of these numbers are better than those from any of the four championship teams, so it is an interesting prospect as the Lady Bisons prepare to battle Jacksonville for their fifth tournament title.

“I am not a numbers guy, but with the season that we have had and the success that we have had not only in the A-Sun but nationally, it made me go back and look into it a bit myself,” says Rosenthal. “It is neat to see what we have been able to accomplish on a national scale while playing most of the season without a key player or two.”

What Lipscomb has been able to accomplish is impressive. The Lady Bisons have led the nation in kills per set (15.30) every week but one of the 2013 season, and has just fallen to third in assists per set (14.22) after leading in that category for a good portion of the season as well. They are also 15th in hitting percentage (.276) and three Lady Bisons are ranked among the top 50 players individually, led by Caitlin Dotson, who is tops in the country in assists per set (12.74).

Jewell Dobson, who was a member of the last Lipscomb tournament champion in 2011, is seventh nationally in points per set (5.32), eighth in kills per set (4.66) and 34th in hitting percentage (.386). Molly Spitznagle, who missed some action due to injury, is back in the swing of things ranked 33rd in hitting percentage (.387).

So is this team one of the best teams that Lipscomb has fielded?

“When I look at this team, I think we are just starting to find out who they are,” says Rosenthal. “We have been without Molly Spitznagle and Stephanie Rex a good bit due to injuries, and we haven’t played with a full complement of players until just recently.”

“Throughout the year we really have made a huge step this year following the end of last season, and it has put us up there again to achieve one of our goals which is to win a conference championship.”

The step to which Rosenthal refers is a decision from the coaching staff and the players to be more aggressive in their play. The numbers bear out the commitment to this more aggressive style, and he says it is large part to an increased level of confidence from key players such as A-Sun Player of the Year Jewell Dobson, Lauren Ford, Molly Spitznagle and Brittnay Estes.

“This is not something that we just stumbled upon, but something that we have worked toward,” he says. “It takes time to change, but we have been able to accomplish it and move forward because of the amazing chemistry that this team possesses. This is one of the tightest teams that we have had here. I have always thought that chemistry is such a key part of success in this sport, and it is something that you can’t manufacture.

Rosenthal points to Dobson and Dotson, particularly, as two examples of how this style of play has transformed their game and that of the team. Dobson, who Rosenthal calls one of the meekest players on the team, has blossomed into a national leader. Dotson has also followed suit as she currently leads the nation in assists, and is a player whom Rosenthal credits as a catalyst for the team’s amazing cohesiveness.

“Offensively we knew that we had something special, and just look at the remarkable year that Dobson and Dotson have enjoyed,” he says. “Then you have Lauren Ford, who is quietly putting together one of her best seasons as well.

“Defensively we do a good job, and we transition so well. We typically don’t have long rallies and we dig to target, and then this year we are very efficient offensively in finishing. One area that we have worked on in the last year is our blocking, which is one of the tougher things to improve. It just takes a while.”

Along with the more aggressive style of play, Rosenthal also has a pair of new coaches in Billy Ebel and Ann Armes. Ebel has ties to some of the former and current Lipscomb volleyball athletes such as Jake Pease, Alex Kelly, Abby Fay and Meghan Hinemeyer, because they all grew up in the same area, He has also coached Lauren Ford and they both are from the same hometown of Lenexa, Kan.

Armes played outside hitter, right side and middle blocker for the University of Kentucky from 2007 until 2011, spending her freshman year as a redshirt. She served as a team captain in 2010 and 2011. During her time as a player Kentucky made five trips to the NCAA Tournament and was a key part of the all-time winning class in school history.

“Sometimes a little change goes a long way, and in the cases of both our style of play and the new coaches and the experience and different approaches that they have brought, change seems to have been a good thing,” says Rosenthal.

While there have been many things to like from this team, Rosenthal says what has impressed him the most is the team’s ability to play with consistency.

“I don’t know that we have had a team that played as well as this one has every time they are on the court,” says Rosenthal. “When you look at the schedule it is fun to look at, because there are no bad losses. We are 2-5 against teams in the top 100 of the RPI ratings, but there was no bad loss in any of those.

“Now the teams that we are beating and competing with are teams that years ago we just dreamed of taking points from,” he continues. “It takes a lot of time to change that culture, especially when you are like this team that is not overrun with personalities.

Rosenthal says that he sees that type of culture changes going on with many of the A-Sun teams and is excited to see the increased success that is occurring in the A-Sun.

“As a whole the A-Sun is undeniably on the move,” he says. “ETSU is into the mix with consistent success, and what JU has done this year is great for all of us in the conference. Then you have the Stetsons making their move and as this continues then you become very conscious of the RPI and moving the needle into the top 50.

“Tonight was a win for everyone because of the impact on RPI and soon we will begin to make someone make a very difficult decision when considering whether to invite more than one team from the A-Sun into the NCAA Tournament.”

For Jacksonville's Collier, Success Is All Part of the Experience

Second-year JU Head Coach Michelle Collier has the Dolphins as the No. 1 seed in the A-Sun Championship for the first time in program history.
If you watched the Jacksonville Dolphins in their A-Sun Championship semifinal this evening, then you saw a team having fun.

Yes, the Dolphins defeated No. 4 seed FGCU 3-1 and advanced to their fourth final in program history. Yes, the win was an important one, but the smiles and the celebrations on the court and in the locker room are the indicators that tell Head Coach Michelle Collier that this team is truly successful.

“I think what has been most rewarding to me about this season is when the girls tell me that they are having a good time,” says Collier. “I had a great college experience and I am fortunate to have a staff that also played a high level and that understands how important the experience is. You want to be a part of an experience that makes you happy, and this team is enjoying that right now.”

The on-the-court success this season of Jacksonville Dolphin volleyball is well documented.

In one season the Dolphins have gone from 10-24 to 27-3, a mark that is seventh best in the nation in wining percentage. JU is ranked in the top 50 nationally in a total of five statistical categories, and the Dolphins secured a share of the A-Sun regular season title and earned the No. 1 seed in the A-Sun Championship for the first time in program history.

The Dolphins are made up of several players who also receive their share of the spotlight, including seniors Kendall Courtney and Kylie Jacob, sophomore Sammie Strausbaugh and freshman Rachel Miller. But these players, says Collier, are where they are this season because her team has bought into a philosophy that she instituted from day one.

“This team lives and dies as a team,” says Collier. “They understand that no individual is bigger than the team. Yes, you have those who receive the attention, but there are six others making those seven better by showing up in the gym ready to work and playing with passion to make everyone better.”

That philosophy bears out clearly when looking at the A-Sun’s success in the national statistics. Jacksonville is ranked among the top 50 teams in the nation in five categories, the most in the conference. However, when looking at the individual rankings, not one Dolphin is among the top 50 players in the nation. 

As a high level player in her own right, Collier ranks among the greatest players ever collegiately. She ranks fifth in NCAA Division I history with 2,729 career kills and sits in the Bulls' top-10 in numerous career and single-season categories. She holds the top spot in USF history in two career categories (kills and digs, 1,747) and set three single-season marks during an amazing 2000 season. After coming back from an injury that forced her to the sidelines in 1999, Collier compiled 760 kills, 1,873 attacks and 6.28 kills per set.

A two-time Conference USA Player of the Year and 2002 All-American, she claimed the league's Player of the Decade in 2004. She also claimed the C-USA Freshman of the Year plaque in 1998 and led her school to three of the program's seven NCAA Tournament appearances. USF went 120-48 during her three years, claiming two C-USA titles and one C-USA tournament crown during her four playing years. Collier is the only volleyball player in USF history to have her jersey retired. She joined the USF Hall of Fame in its third class announced in 2011, the first Bulls volleyball player to earn that honor.  

Collier’s passion for the game is unmatched, and it has helped her instill the culture that now pervades Jacksonville volleyball. But it is much more than that, she says, that has enabled her to change the mindsets of her players and to get the most from her team.

“I have a good relationship with our players, and so does my staff,” says Collier. We don’t micromanage them, we do it with them. At first there were some things and attitudes that had to be addressed, but now they have bought into this culture and they realize that we are FOR them, not against them. Now it is more like a family, and they feel disappointed if they let the staff or me down. 

“At the same time they know that we have high expectations from them, and they respond to that. I am much more approachable than my coach was with me, and to be honest I don’t know the secret formula to why everything has been working this season. We are just having a good time. I won’t write about a book about it because I don’t know. But I do know that we have gone about things with the right mentality and intentions, and that is crucial.” 

The Dolphins’ roster includes the A-Sun Career leader in service aces, Kendall Courtney, and the 2012 A-Sun Freshman of the Year and member of the 2013 Academic All-Conference Team, Sammie Strausbaugh. Throw in Rachel Miller, a member of the 2013 A-Sun All-Freshman Team, and you have quite an impressive trio. Those three join senior Kylie Jacob, who ranks third among career active leader in blocks in the A-Sun, and the spotlight could remain on JU for quite some time. 

Collier’s experience of developing young players throughout her coaching career, along with her approach to her players and her passion for the game, has certainly provided immediate success for her as a developer of younger players like Strausbaugh and Miller. 

“Coach has been an incredible help to me,” says Strausbaugh. “Knowing that she was so good as a player herself, and that she played the same position as me, has really enabled me to improve my game. I can go to her with any questions and she knows because she has been there. And at times in a close match or when we find ourselves in a tough situation, she can help me out of it.” 

Miller is from Clearwater, Fla., near Tampa where Collier enjoyed a successful career at the University of South Florida.  

“I have so much respect for her and look up to her because of what she was able to accomplish and because of how she deals with us as players and individuals,” says Miller. “All of my club coaches were so excited when I made the decision to attend Jacksonville because they think so much of her, particularly in that area. 

“The way she deals with the team and the way the team responds to her was obvious to me when I visited. They included me right away and, while I also liked the school environment, I was welcomed right away and I knew that I could be comfortable spending four years in this program.” 

That experience, although certainly impressive, is not the only one that Collier has to draw from in order to teach players appreciation of the game. Growing up in Brazil and playing abroad, Collier learned the culture of high-level volleyball. She learned the passion for the game, and had opportunity to hone her skills by playing against older players who pushed her and taught her to expect high standards from herself and her teammates.

“I don’t know that I learned my approach as a coach from any one person or coach, but more through life experience,” says Collier. “I saw a lot and was a part of a lot of volleyball growing up in Brazil, and I also learned how fortunate players here in the states are when it comes to their resources. They are in an once-in-a-lifetime situation. I want to be sure that they understand that and that they are thankful for everything that they have going for them.”

The Dolphins are certainly enjoying one of their best seasons in program history. Ask anyone who is associated with the program and it is obvious that in just two short years, Collier’s impact is clear.

“This year the team chemistry is amazing,” says Miller. “We are all friends, sharing the attitude of ‘I will do anything for this team.’ I know that helps us in game situations and raises our level of play because we are committed to that idea.”

Strausbaugh agrees. “Our biggest strength is that we are a very close-knit team. When we are at work we are focused on volleyball, and we don’t let things on the outside distract us from that. But Coach has also done a great job in being both a player’s coach and a disciplinarian. She is tough on us, and that helps us to play with discipline. But she also communicated with us and we are comfortable going to her with non-volleyball stuff as well.”

Collier’s approach has clearly transformed this team into one poised for future success because she understands the importance of chemistry, particularly in volleyball.

“Chemistry is a huge factor in this sport,” says Collier. “I think that has translated into one of the most rewarding results of this season for me, which is how we handle ourselves as a team. They like being around each other, they have bought into our approach and they play with heart and passion in practice and in matches.

“I had a great college experience, and I miss it, and so does my staff. We want everyone who comes through this program to feel the same way when their careers are complete here. Sure we want to enjoy success, but success on the court is a nice by-product when you are in it for the right reason.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lipscomb's Dotson Ready for Life After Lipscomb

Lipscomb's Caitlin Dotson leads the nation in assists per set, but off the court she has begun to provide a valuable service for her student-athlete peers.
Courtesy of Mark McGee and

Lipscomb senior setter Caitlin “Dot” Dotson has the ability to bring people together.

Her leadership skills are exceptional. Her confidence knows no limitations. She is aware that after she ends her volleyball career this season that there is much more of life ahead.

She has balanced the demands of her studies with being a co-captain of the volleyball team. She also writes a regular blog for And in the summers she has traveled to Haiti and Brazil on mission trips.
Dotson calls volleyball at Lipscomb a lifestyle, not just an athletic program. 

“It’s a mentality that you come to have, even if it takes a full four years to completely embrace it,” Dotson said. “The mentality not only expresses that we are elite and strong, but also deserving of rewards because we have worked hard.”  

On the court her hard work is evident. She is an All-Atlantic Sun First Team member this season and leads the nation in assists per set. She also has been named A-Sun Co-Conference Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. 

Off the court she has worked hard on a new program called “Linked Lipscomb” which she developed over the summer. She introduced the program this fall with the goal of helping her fellow athletes be better prepared for what lies ahead after they complete their careers on the court or on the field and graduate.

“It is an amazing opportunity for Dot and the rest of the girls,” Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “They want this to go somewhere. Our girls have jumped in with both feet. It is really neat to see.

“The basic premise is that a lot of students and student-athletes get to graduation and say, `O.K., now what?’  It is more so with student-athletes because they don’t have as much time to dedicate to internships and hunting for jobs."

“Linked Lipscomb” started with volleyball. All 14 0f her teammates signed up. But she is targeting any student-athletes that are willing to be a part of the program. Freshmen are a special priority.

“Our freshmen will not only be introduced to their school work,” Rosenthal said. “They will also get an opportunity to build their network so by the time they get to graduation it is not what’s next, but all of the different choices they may have.”

The most important thing that separates “Linked Lipscomb” from other mentor programs is that it is designed for athletes. Dotson developed the program with the assistance of Dr. Gary Jerkins, an ophthalmologist who is also a former tennis player for Lipscomb.

For the past three years a group of doctors has rented a suite in Allen Arena where pre-medical students are connected with Lipscomb alumni who are physicians.

“We call it the `Doc Box’,” Jerkins said. “It is a very non-threatening environment where young pre-med students can come and meet somebody in the medical field.”

Jerkins wanted to place an emphasis on student-athletes who might be interested in a medical career. He met with Philip Hutcheson, Lipscomb’s athletic director, and asked for a list of student-athletes who were interested in going into medicine.

“We wanted to make sure we got them to visit the `Doc Box’,” Jerkins said. “Philip sent me a list and on top of the list was the name, `Caitlin Dotson’.  And he verbally told me I needed to meet her. Philip also evidently told her she needed to meet with me."

Dotson originally planned to go to medical school to become a doctor. But she has changed her career emphasis and plans on becoming a physician’s assistant. They met in the `Doc Box’, but Dotson also spent time with Jerkins and his family at dinner.  She shadowed Jerkins at his practice and also spent time with other physicians observing their work.

“She is bright,” Jerkins said. “She is a critical thinker. She is a remarkable writer.She is a disciplined person.

“Dot was sharp enough to think that if this worked well for her why wouldn’t it work for her teammates who are going to be other professions."

Dotson and Jerkins met with Rosenthal. Dotson, as a team co-captain was given the go ahead to introduce the program to the members of the volleyball team.

Jerkins prefers to use the term “career coach instead of “mentors” when referring to those who are working with the program.

“We took great pains with trying to partner with young people with what they think they want to do professionally and people who are already in that career,” Jerkins said. “It worked with the volleyball team so Dot decided to move to men’s and women’s tennis.”

Many of the tennis players are from other countries with majors in international business. Turney Stevens, Dean of the College of Business, is overseeing connecting the athletes with career coaches. Stevens is also serving as a career coach for one student as well.

“There are different definitions of international business,” Jerkins said. “Jamie Aid (women’s tennis coach) and I met with Turney.

“I reached out to Turney and said we needed some help. He then personally came over to the tennis center and met with all of the players and got a grasp on the concept. It has been about making a personal ask - the grassroots approach - and taking the time and effort to match up career coaches with the students.”

On the education side, Dr. Candace McQueen, the Dean of the College of Education; is working with four volleyball players who want to pursue careers in education.

“Dr. McQueen paired the students with their career coaches,” Jerkins said. “It is all about knowing the right people.”

The emphasis is on personal relationships between the students and their career coaches. “It is really a grass roots approach,” Jerkins said. “It has worked remarkably well.

“Dot can see the big picture of the program. I think she has expanded something here that has legs in the long term."

The long term success of the program is the vision for Dotson. Her philosophy is that everyone should do what they can to leave something behind that will impact the future.

“Dot is very smart…very street smart,” Rosenthal said. “She is very confident, but not unapproachable.

“I have been around her for five or six years. I have been able to see her really take ownership of her life. It is awesome. It is nice to see this next big step she has taken. It is just not to benefit herself, but other student –athletes. She wants to leave this legacy for years to come.”