JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Beginning on Thursday, the Jacksonville University volleyball team will be heading south to compete in its third tournament of the season when the Dolphins play in the FIU Invitational. Action begins Thursday night against the hosts, Florida International, before JU faces off with South Dakota State and Chattanooga on Friday.
JU is enjoying a perfect 6-0 start to the season – the best stretch to open a year since the 1978 Dolphin team began 21-0 – and entering the tourney with plenty of momentum on its side. Coming off of tournament wins in both the FAU Invitational and Hilton Garden Inn Invitational, the Dolphins have shown they are an offensive force to be reckoned with. For their play last week, Kylie Jacob and Kendall Courtney earned All-Tournament honors; meanwhile, Sammie Strausbaugh was named MVP after compiling 41 kills and a .523 hitting percentage in the three matches.
With her team off to a flying start this season, Head Coach Michelle Collier hopes for nothing but continued growth for the Dolphins. "I'm very pleased with the way we've been playing so far," she said. "The girls are working hard in the gym and we're getting better everyday. The girls are playing for each other and are enjoying the opportunity to play each match as hard as they can. This weekend is another opportunity to compete against solid competition and get better."
The Dolphins open the tourney against FIU on Thursday night. The Panthers are 3-3 on the season, but two of those losses have come against SEC competition in South Carolina and Alabama. Ksenia Sukhareva leads the offense for FIU. The outside hitter has 80 kills and averages 3.64 kills per set. CeCe Spencer is a force in the middle with six solo blocks and a 1.12 blocks per set average.
South Dakota State just recorded its first win of the season in a five-set match with Drake over the weekend. The Jackrabbits were 7-3 around this time last year, but have staggered to a 1-5 start that’s in part due to losses to a ranked Iowa State team and a Texas A&M squad currently just outside the Top 25. Wagner Lawson (2.81 kills) and Mikala Hora (2.33) are the two main attackers for SDSU, but the team appears to be lacking in a major defensive presence in the middle. Kacey Herrmann and Lissie Palmer each have 77 digs on the season (3.67 per set).
Jacksonville’s final match of the tournament is against a hard-luck Chattanooga team still looking for its first victory of the season. At 0-8 so far this year, the Mocs have dropped four matches in five sets. Allie Davenport leads the team with 74 kills, averaging 2.55 kills per set, but the Mocs are hitting only .129 as a team thus far.
At the conclusion of this tournament, Jacksonville has one more non-conference match before the start of Atlantic Sun play. The Dolphins will meet up with the UCF Knights on Sept. 18 at 7 pm in Orlando, then will travel for matches at Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson on Sept. 20 and 21.
Thursday, Sept. 12
Jacksonville at FIU, 6 pm
Friday, Sept. 13
South Dakota State vs. Jacksonville, 10 am
Chattanooga at FIU, 12 pm
Jacksonville vs. Chattanooga, 5 pm
South Dakota State at FIU, 7 pm
Sunday, Sept. 15
South Dakota State vs. Chattanooga, 10 am
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