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
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
“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
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.”