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.”

1 comment:

  1. Great job. Your team is awesome. Keep up the great work. We hope you guys take it all the way in the NCAA tournament. From the Creamers/Stetson Volleyball.


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