HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – No. 1 Jacksonville University volleyball earned its 20th win of the season after battling for five sets and ultimately beating No. 8 Northern Kentucky, 3-2, on the road. JU won 21-25, 25-22, 25-19, 22-25 and 15-10.
This is the programs first 20-win season since 2008 when the Dolphins finished 20-10 overall. The Dolphins improve to 20-2 overall, 10-1 in the Atlantic Sun and are on a 10-match winning streak.
"We knew coming into this weekend these matches were going to be challenging for us,” said Head Coach Michelle Collier, “The long travel, we left at 5:00 am this morning, plus the strong play by NKU, really pushed us. But this season has been about playing as a team and helping each other out. Different players were able to step up at different times and teamwork created this victory for us!"
It came down to the fifth set, but JU always held its lead. The Dolphins opened with a 2-0 upper hand on kills by Kylie Jacob and Emily Laskelle, followed to lead 7-5, 10-6 and 14-10, and won 15-10, ending with an Alyssa Robertson kill.
Northern Kentucky opened the match with a steady control, scoring to 5-1, 8-3 and 11-6 before Jacksonville rallied with four straight to sit behind one at 11-10. But the Norse pulled away once more at 17-12, 23-17 and eventually 25-21.
Jacksonville rebounded in the second and third sets with fire to take a 2-1 match advantage. In the second, the Dolphins swam to an 8-0 run on kills by Jacob and Laskelle, two straight service aces and four attack errors. NKU retaliated with five of its own from 9-2 to 9-6, but JU broke away to 23-16. NKU then ran for six points to trail 23-22 before Jacob and Laskelle scored the final two kills for JU's 25-22 win. In the third, the Dolphins led 6-1 and kept a large advantage, especially from 13-8 to 17-8 on one attack error and four consecutive kills. NKU didn’t come very close, as JU led 20-10 at one point and won 25-19.
The Norse forced a fifth set after winning the fourth set 25-22 in a pretty even match with solid pockets of scoring. JU was down by one at 18-17 before NKU earned one service ace and two attack errors to lead 21-17. JU scored to come within one again at 23-22 on two kills and two attack errors, but NKU made the final two points for a 25-22 fourth set win.
Defensively, Robertson led with a match-high seven block assists and one solo, followed by Jacob (5), Sammie Strausbaugh and Laskelle (4), Taylor Nyquist and Mayara Prestes (2) and Kendall Courtney (1). Freshman Rachel Miller earned both a career-and-match-high 21 digs, while Strausbaugh was second with 19.
Offensively, Jacob earned a career-high 19 digs and 31 attacks, hitting a match-high .516. Laskelle (12), Nyquist (11) and Robertson (10) rounded out the top four. In assists, Courtney tied a previous career-high record of 53 from JU’s earlier match against NKU on Sept. 28.
"Super proud of what this group has accomplished so far, but we know there is a lot of volleyball left to be played and it is only going to keep getting harder," Collier added.
NKU scored high in digs and kills as well. Anna Prickel had 16 digs, followed by Kaela Jo Freppon (12) and both Jayden Julian and Taylor Snyder with 11 apiece. Jenna Ruble had 15 kills, followed by Megan Wanstrath (13), Keely Creamer (12) and Tristen Simpson (11).
Next, Jacksonville competes at Lipscomb on Saturday for a 2 p.m. match.