Volleyball opens A-Sun Tournament play on Thursday night

Nov. 14, 2007


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After defeating UNF to end the regular season, the JU volleyball team (17-12, 8-3) will enter the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament as the No. 3 seed in Macon, Ga.

The Dolphins will face No. 6 Gardner- Webb (14-17, 5-6) on Thursday at 5 p.m. to open first round action. JU defeated GWU, 3-1, on Oct. 6 in Boiling Springs, N.C. earlier this season.

Each of JU's matches in the A-Sun Tournament will be available through ASun.TV on

A-Sun Championship set
The field has finally been set for the A-Sun Tournament in Macon, Ga. as matches begin this Thursday.

Belmont (9-2) and East Tennessee State (9-2) hold the top two spots and a first round bye. JU  (8-3) enters as the No. 3 seed and will face No. 6 Gardner-Webb (5-6). No. 4 Lipscomb (7-4) will play against No. 5 Mercer (6-5). Florida Gulf Coast (10-1), who earned the regular season title, is not eligible for postseason play due to its jump to Division I.

All matches during the A-Sun Tournament will be available through ASun.TV. The winner of the conference tournament will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Hannah's money
Freshman setter Hannah Munneke (pronounced mun-ah-key) was thrown into the pool without much security in her first season with the program but she certainly isn't sinking, in fact, she's nearly a synchronized swimmer.

Along with moving into third in the A-Sun rankings with 11.61 assists per game, she also leads all setters in service aces (34) and blocks (57).

Munneke is also knocking on the door of the single-season record for assists in a season. She currently sits at 1,218 and is 26 away from surpassing Erin Donivan (1,244) for the top spot.

Big up front
Senior middle blocker Melissa Merchant is one of the hottest tickets on the national market these days when it comes to playing defense at the net.

The Oakley, Calif. native moved up to 12th in the national rankings with an average of 1.57 blocks per game. In total blocks, she ranks in the top 10 nationally with 160.

In a different perspective of her dominance in the A-Sun, she is 35 blocks ahead of Mercer's Jen Darty (117). Merchant also re-established herself in the JU record book by claiming the match high block record with 15 at ETSU on Sept. 21.

In the career record book, she is second with 258 block assists and fifth with 293 total blocks. In comparison, Merchant has yet to complete her second season with the program and each other player has tallied at least three seasons worth of stats.

The back line of defense
Sophomore libero Michelle Walroth broke her own single-season digs record at JU with 585 and is tied for second in the A-Sun with an average of 5.74 digs per game.

She has also finished with 30 digs on four occasions this season, including a season-high 32 twice, and is on pace to break her own single season record.

Not only that, but Walroth joins fellow teammate Mellisa Merchant in the national rankings as she checks in at 27th. Her sister, Julie, is a senior libero at Evansville and is currently ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 6.33 digs per game. 

Along with the single season record, Walroth is also on pace to destroy the Dolphin record book as she sits second in career digs (1,174) which is 150 behind Julie Heipp (1,324).

A-Sun statistics
Individually, freshman middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher is third in blocks per game (1.04 bpg) and freshman outside hitter Aidan Yeager is tied for fourth (1.03), sophomore setter Hannah Munneke is third in assists per game (11.61), senior middle blocker Melissa Merchant is eighth in hitting percentage (.308), junior outside hitter Sara Bendorf is tied for seventh in service aces per game (0.44) and ninth in kills per game (3.38). As a team, JU leads the conference in blocks (2.75 bpg), third in hitting percentage (.216) and opponent hitting percentage (.167), fifth in service aces per game (1.93).

ASun.TV now available
The JU Dolphins made their debut on ASun.TV against No. 8 Washington on Sept. 14 and more matches remain. To sign up to view any of the contests, or any other packages offered, log onto

ASun.TV events will be available for viewing both live and via on-demand replay to fans throughout the country that purchase a Single Event Pass ($5.99 per event), a monthly All-Event Pass ($9.99 per month), or an annual All-Event pass ($69.99 per year). Both the annual and monthly All- Event Passes allow unlimited access to games within their respective timeframes.

Among the remaining matches on the 2007 schedule is the A-Sun Tournament (11/15-11- 17).

Former Dolphin making news
Former Dolphin Tara Kuk (formerly Tara Burton) was nominated for AVP "Rookie of the Year" honors on Oct. 13. Kuk, who is a rising star on the Pro Beach circuit, was an outside hitter with the Dolphins from 1997-98 and earned Trans Atlantic Conference "Player of the Year" honors in 1998. She was also invited to try out for the U.S. National Team in 2000.

Head coach Shaun Kupferberg
Shaun Kupferberg is completing his second season at the helm of the Dolphin volleyball program after five successful seasons as the head coach at Northwest University.

In his second year with the program, he has led the Dolphins to a program-tying eight wins in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Dolphins have also reached the conference tournament in each season under his direction.

In his inaugural year at JU, Kupferberg went through growing pains with his new squad but eventually led JU to the A-Sun Tournament Finals for only the second time in program history.

His five-year record at Northwest was 91- 52, with only one losing season (his first) during that time frame. During his tenure, he led Northwest to its highest national ranking ever (10th) and to its first-ever regional championship match.