Volleyball Eyes Hilton Garden Inn Invitational Crown This Weekend
Sammie Strausbaugh
Sammie Strausbaugh
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After sweeping the FAU Invitational last weekend, the Jacksonville University volleyball team is set to host its own tournament this weekend in Swisher Gym. The Hilton Garden Inn Invitational includes Florida Atlantic, Charleston Southern and Mississippi Valley State, and features a pair of tripleheaders beginning both Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m.

Opening the season with their best start in 15 years, the Dolphins are the only undefeated team in the Atlantic Sun. JU received a well-rounded effort across the board last weekend, but the play of Sammie Strausbaugh, Kylie Jacob and Kendall Courtney stood out as the trio was named to the FAU Invitational All-Tournament Team. A stat line across three matches that included 10 kills, 34 digs and 123 assists also were enough to earn Courtney an A-Sun Player of the Week nod. Strausbaugh leads the Dolphins in kills (3.25 per set) and digs(3.75), while Jacob tops the charts in blocks (1.17).

Friday’s first matchup will see Florida Atlantic meet Mississippi Valley State. The Owls enter the tourney with a record of 2-1 after suffering a 3-1 loss to Jacksonville last Friday. FAU was able to rebound with straight set wins against Bethune-Cookman and Southeastern Louisiana. During the tournament, setter Jelena Jovanovic – who leads FAU with 88 assists – recorded her 1,000th career assist. Outside hitters Alessia  Pizzoccheri, Jennifer St. Sume and Kristi Tekavec all average at least 2.50 kills per set.

Mississippi Valley State enters the tournament at 2-3, which all of its losses coming last weekend at a tournament hosted by Nicholls State. The Devilettes also were defeated by Tulane and Rider in addition to the host Colonels. Libero Steffi Rodriguez leads the team in digs (2.67 per set) and was named to the All-Tournament team for her play. MVSU comes in with a hitting percentage of just .125, and averages only 7.17 kills per set as a team. Chylla Nault leads the way with a 1.18 kills per set average.

Charleston Southern has fallen in straight sets each of its four matches so far this season, and heads to the First Coast looking for its first win. The Buccaneers play back-to-back games against Mississippi Valley State and Jacksonville on Friday afternoon, and then compete against FAU on Saturday. Another team that has had its struggles early on in the year, CSU is hitting at a .113 clip as a team. Outside hitter Katrina Houston sees most of the ball, leading the team with 2.92 kills per set and contributing nearly a third of all their attacks. Defensive specialist Maggie Murphy tops the squad in digs (3.25) and setter Cassidy Greer has 73 assists thus far on the season.

Following this weekend, the Dolphins head down to Florida International where they will take on FIU, South Dakota State and Chattanooga over two days at the FIU Invitational.

Tournament Schedule:
Friday, Sept. 6

FAU vs. Mississippi Valley State, 10 a.m.
Charleston Southern vs. Mississippi Valley State, 2 p.m.
Jacksonville vs. Charleston Southern, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 7
Jacksonville vs. Mississippi Valley State, 10 a.m.
Charleston Southern vs. FAU, 2 p.m.
Jacksonville vs. FAU,6 p.m.