JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Sun, Jacksonville University volleyball will compete in its second straight Atlantic Sun Tournament this weekend, hosted by Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. The Dolphins (27-3 overall, 16-2 A-Sun) earned a bye past the first round on Thursday, Nov. 21 and will open action in the semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m. EST. They will face either No. 4 FGCU (13-18, 9-9) or No. 5 Stetson (18-15, 9-9).
If the Fins win their semifinal match, they will advance to Saturday’s final, scheduled for 3 p.m. All matches will be available on ESPN3.
Last Friday and Saturday the Dolphins closed out their regular-season by beating USC Upstate, 3-1, and upsetting former No. 1 ETSU, 3-0, to claim the top spot in the A-Sun and a share of the regular-season title.
“Friday was a big game for us,” said second-year Head Coach Michelle Collier. “We were not at our best, but the team pulled out the win to put ourselves in position to fight for the regular-season championship on Saturday.
“Then on Saturday we got together in the locker room and talked about playing as hard as we could and staying confident that we had what it took to beat a great team on their home court,” Collier continued. “The girls came out with a lot of heart and passion and played at a very high level."
"Our team played without fear to win the number one seed in the conference tournament and we truly put our hearts into the last ETSU match," senior Kylie Jacob said. "The way we played, hustled, and fought that entire game proved that we are a championship-worthy team. Our team and our coaching staff are filled with such a strong passion to work hard and give 110% every time we step on the court and that will be our strongest aspect this weekend.
"Although we earned the number one seed, we're still considered the underdogs of the conference," Jacob continued. "Honestly, I love the fact that no one will expect us to succeed because we will certainly be proving them wrong, just like we have been all season long."
"Heading into conference my most prevalent feeling is excitement," fellow senior Kendall Courtney added. "I know we can beat any team we come up against, but I also know that everyone steps their game up for the tournament. It is going to be a battle, but that is why I play competitive sports, for the challenge and the ups and downs."
Collier continued to say that the Dolphins have earned the championship for everything they have worked toward this season.
“We [deserved] this championship for everything that we have done this season. This group is special and winning the conference championship was a reward for all the hard work everyone has put in to this program and to the vision that we are building for Jacksonville University volleyball.
“It was great the see the sparkle and the tears of joy in their eyes after the final whistles," Collier continued. "They played their hearts [out] and I could not be more proud of them!"
The Fins ended their historic regular-season 27-3 overall and 16-2 in the A-Sun. 27 wins is the program’s most since the 1987 squad posted 29 and three losses is the fewest in the program’s 41-year history. This is also just the fifth season that volleyball has recorded a single-digit loss record. The 2009 and 1983 teams recorded nine losses, the inaugural 1972 lineup tallied eight, and the 1978 squad posted seven. 16 conference wins is also Jacksonville’s most since joining the A-Sun in 1998. The 2009 and 2008 teams each earned 15 conference wins.
"These stats not only show how much hard work and effort we have put into this season, but also that we're taking this program to the next level," Jacob said. "For the past three years that I've been a Dolphin, this program has never seen a better group of girls as well as such a dynamic coaching staff. It's so rewarding to be able to experience a season like this and going into this weekend. I can't wait to have this team continue to make history."
Courtney echoed Jacob's sentiment.
"To me [the stats] are a good reflection of how hard we have worked this season," Courtney said. "Everyone on the team has pushed themselves and each other and through that we have grown stronger as a team, which has allowed us to have the success and the stats that we do."
Last season in the A-Sun Tournament, the fifth-seeded Dolphins were shutout, 3-0, by cross-town rival and fourth-seeded North Florida in the first round. They ended their season 10-24 overall and 7-11 in the A-Sun.