TUESDAY, JANUARY 08, 2008
Women's basketball receives vote in USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Poll

Jan. 8, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Click here to view the latest USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Poll.

Off to the best start in school history, the JU women's basketball team is gaining notice nationally, earning its first vote in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 poll released on Tuesday.

At a school that has enjoyed many years of national recognition and success with its men's basketball program (nine postseason appearances, including a trip to the national title game in 1970), the Dolphin women's program is beginning to enjoy its own success in only three and a half years under the guidance of head coach Jill Dunn.

"I think the most amazing thing is that Jacksonville University's women's basketball program has only been in existence for nine years," said Dunn. "The men's program has been established for nearly 40 years, so that is what people know. We have had to start from scratch and go through several losing seasons to get to where we are today. It is an incredible feeling to have the respect from other coaches to acknowledge our program as one of the elite in the nation."

Since the program began in 1999, the Dolphins had only one 10-win season (13 in 2000-01) and did not have a significant win over a larger school outside of Atlantic Sun Conference play in five seasons. Enter Dunn, who had recently enjoyed three A-Sun titles and two NCAA Tournament appearances as an assistant coach at Georgia State and was ready to take the next step as a head coach.

"I saw JU as a program that had a ton of potential," Dunn said. "I was familiar with the city of Jacksonville as well as the University and thought that both had a lot to offer. I also knew the conference well and thought that it was a competitive league that anyone had a fair shot at winning.

"As far as my personal goals that I set out to accomplish, as a coach, I have been fortunate. It normally takes four to five years to get a program turned around. I have been very blessed with my coaching staff, players, and administration to make that turn around possible in this amount of time."

In her first season with the program, the Dolphins suffered some lumps but tied for the second most wins in program history with six during the 2004-05 campaign. After her first complete offseason (which included the arrival of forward Ashley Williams and guards Regina Omoite, DaVina Hamilton and Virginia Gregoire), Dunn led the squad to 10 wins and the program's first conference tournament appearance in four years.

In 2006-07, JU began to emerge as a program on the rise as the Dolphins shattered the record books with nine new program marks, including a 21-9 overall record, which tied for sixth in the nation for greatest turnaround (10 games) from the previous year. In only three years under the direction of Dunn, the program had seen an average improvement of 6.8 wins per season.

Now in their fourth season under Dunn, the Dolphins are enjoying even more success despite only passing the halfway point of the season. Along with the 12-3 mark, JU has won 17-consecutive home games (the third longest active streak in the nation), 10 consecutive wins against A-Sun opponents while also registering wins against the Atlantic Coast Conference (Miami), Atlantic 10 Conference (UMass) and Southeastern Conference (Florida) teams for the first time in program history.

"Jill, her staff and the student-athletes have done a phenomenal job in building this program," said JU director of athletics Alan Verlander. "They have already accomplished a lot, but they have their sights set on bigger goals. It has been exciting to watch this program develop over the past few years and the future looks very bright."

Along with the team success, Dunn's "Fearsome Foursome" has made an assault on the career record book in every category. In just two and a half seasons, Williams has set the program record for points, steals and blocks and is on pace to finish with the top mark for field goal percentage and free throws made. The first player to earn back-to-back first team all-conference accolades, the preseason A-Sun MVP is also leading the conference in points per game (16.3).

Gregoire joined Williams as the first JU duo to earn first team all-conference honors last season after ranking third in the conference in scoring. Omoite is on pace to set the program record for assists, 3-pointers made and minutes played while Hamilton joins all three guards in the career top five for assists and steals.

"My first true recruiting class consisted of Ashley, Virginia, Regina and DaVina and these four young ladies have become the foundation of our program and the success we have enjoyed," said Dunn. "They have started from ground zero and have taken the program from 10 wins in their first season to more than doubling that last year. They came to every practice wanting to improve and their hard work has definitely paid dividends for our program. I couldn't ask for a better group of players to lead this team."

Although the success grows, the next step for the Dolphins is to earn the program's first regular season title and conference tournament crown, which will lead to the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the JU women.