Volleyball faces huge weekend in Music City

Nov. 2, 2006

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Over the past two seasons, the JU volleyball team has found a way to peak at the right time.

And this season is no exception.

The Dolphins (14-11) enter this weekend on a five-match winning streak as they try to wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first-round by in Atlantic Sun Conference Championship with wins over Lipscomb and Belmont on the road, starting Friday night at 7 p.m.

"This weekend is going to be a great litmus test to see where we stand in conference," said JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg. "Anytime you play two tough teams on the road you will see what your team has really learned throughout the season".

JU's recent run has come under tough circumstances as sophomore outside hitter Sara Bendorf suffered a season-ending injury at UNF.

Among the players that has stepped up in a new role is Melissa Merchant. The defensive blocking force on the front line, Merchant has evolved her game into becoming an offensive weapon as well.

She racked up a season-high 23 kills in leading the Dolphins back from an 0-2 deficit to beat Campbell, 3-2. In the fifth game, she piled up six kills, including the game winner.

Looking to pitch in is senior Eva Stoilova, who needs just 16 digs to become the second player in school history to record 1,000 kills and digs in her career. She passed the 1,000-kill milestone last week against Gardner-Webb.

Setting up the new wave of offensive weapons is Una Dzalba. She came off the bench against Bethune-Cookman to dish out 55 assists in guiding JU to a 3-1 win. After sitting out the first two games against Campbell, Dzalba dished out 27 assists in the final three games to direct the comeback.

"Since Sarah's injury we have been redefining ourselves with many people playing new roles," Kupferberg said. "While we have struggled at times, the girls have always been able to pull it together in the end and make the plays when they count."

JU's first match is against Lipscomb on Friday night at 8 p.m. (EST), followed by the Belmont match on Saturday at 3 p.m. (EST).