Friday, October 25, 2013

Culture Changes Places Win Record in Sight for JU

When head coach Michelle Collier took over the Jacksonville volleyball program prior to the 2012 season, the Dolphins were in the midst of a slide from title contender status that would eventually lead to three-straight losing seasons.

With that setting, Collier began to transform the program by focusing on creating a solid culture and it has not taken long to see the results. JU owns the nation’s seventh-best winning percentage, sitting at 19-2 and atop the A-Sun standings at 9-1. With one more win, the Dolphins will achieve their first 2-win season since 2008. The Dolphins all-time win record is 34 that was set in 1977 with a 34-15 record.

“It has been a surreal season for us,” Collier said. “I am not really too caught up on the numbers of wins. Winning has really been a byproduct of not taking our opportunities for granted, working hard every day and focusing on the team and its spirit.”

One of the keys for Jacksonville has been a realization that living in the present will lead to good things.

“My strategy has been to help my players realize this is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” added Collier. “They have a chance to make this experience about the right things (like) building relationships, enjoying every moment, pushing themselves, working hard and having no regrets.”

The relationship building resonates with the student-athletes as well.

“Every relationship needs to have trust and I feel that the reason we are so consistent is because we all trust each other. We have each other’s backs and pull one another through the challenges we face,” said senior Alyssa Robertson.

The results have been difficult to beat. Since losing two out of three matches from September 18-21, JU has reeled off nine straight victories highlighted by a five-set home win versus defending champ ETSU and a 3-0 sweep of Stetson to avenge their only conference loss.

Despite the success, Jacksonville finds itself in a tight race for conference supremacy with the Lady Bucs and traditional A-Sun power Lipscomb. The trio is separated by just a game in the conference standings with four weeks remaining, setting up an exciting race to the finish for A-Sun volleyball.

“We have been through so many changes with our program and finally it is our time to step up and shine,” added Robertson.

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