WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 2014
Jacksonville Sets Single-Season Championships Record
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was a season for the ages at Jacksonville University. The Dolphins have won eight regular season or conference tournament titles in 2013-14 – the most by the school in a single season in history.
In addition, Jacksonville took home the Atlantic Sun Sherman Day Trophy as the women’s All-Sports champion for the first time since 2010-11 and the fourth time in school history. Combining men’s and women’s sports, Jacksonville finished third in the A-Sun’s All-Sports rankings marking JU’s highest finish since 2008-09
With the year offically coming to a close, it’s a good time to look back at the accomplishments of the champions.
The first title of the year came courtesy of the women’s soccer team. Entering the Atlantic Sun Tournament as the No. 2 seed, the Dolphins were well-positioned but still faced an uphill climb. The semifinals brought a rematch with a Kennesaw State squad that had defeated JU, 2-1, in a double-overtime thriller just two weeks earlier. Though scoreless for more than an hour, Jacksonville took command in the closing stages of the match and came away with a 2-0 victory to move on to the championship.
In the championship match, JU was matched up with a Florida Gulf Coast team that held home-field advantage after winning the regular season title. Fighting through intense heat and a loud FGCU cheering section, Jacksonville held the Eagles scoreless for 110 intense minutes of action and brought the match to a penalty shootout to decide the winner. With the Dolphins holding a 4-3 lead, the Eagles’ fourth effort sailed wide of the goal and Adriana Rodrigues clinched the title on the next spot kick. Sarah Sierra was named the Tournament MVP, while Kaitlyn Bassett, Joy Grove and Ally Lee also earned places on the All-Tournament Team.
Less than two weeks later, the women’s soccer team was joined by volleyball as conference champions. A dominating regular season ended with the Dolphins as co-champions of the Atlantic Sun with a 16-2 mark in the league. At 27-3 entering the conference tournament, Jacksonville carried a target on its back but didn’t back down from any challenges. A four-set victory against Florida Gulf Coast in the semifinals moved the team into the championship match, though not against the opponent many expected. East Tennessee State tied with JU for the regular season title, but the Bucs were knocked off by Lipscomb in the other semifinal. With the Dolphins and Bisons having split their two regular season meetings, an epic rubber match would decide the conference’s NCAA Tournament representative.
The match first swung in Lipscomb’s favor, with the Bisons jumping out to an early one set lead after a come-from-behind 27-25 win. Jacksonville appeared to have the ship righted in the second set, taking a 20-12 lead, but the Bisons tallied nine straight points to take a 21-20 advantage late in the proceedings. The Dolphins refused to fold against the pressure, and tied the match six times as the set wore on. Finally, with the set knotted at 26-26, kills from Taylor Nyquist and Sammie Strausbaugh gave JU the 28-26 win and tied the match at 1-1.
The third set was another tight affair, tied up as late as 16-16, but Jacksonville gained control and scored nine of the last 12 points to take a 2-1 lead with a 25-19 victory. Lipscomb then jumped all over JU in the fourth set with a 25-16 win and a winner-take-all fifth set was going to be required to crown a champion.
Jacksonville regained its focus in the fifth set and took an 8-3 lead at the midway point. Lipscomb was able to close within two points on two occasions, but the Dolphins got the points they needed right on cue to keep the Bisons at bay. The final kill from Kylie Jacob gave JU the 15-10 win and a 3-2 decision in the match. Kendall Courtney was named the Tournament MVP, while Jacob and Strausbaugh also landed on the All-Tournament Team.
During the indoor track & field season, the Dolphins recorded six new records, including two from Svenja Meyer and two from Shanique Walker. The Fins also earned five Atlantic Sun Women’s Track & Field weekly awards, including two straight weeks of sweeps on Jan. 15 and Jan. 22. At the Atlantic Sun Indoor Championships, Walker recorded a conference and school-record 60-meter hurdles preliminary time, Taylor Story set a new school record in the high jump, Meyer set a new school-best in the 5,000m run and Stormm Phillips won the indoor pentathlon.
In total, Jacksonville earned 18 top-three performances over the two-day meet. When the dust had settled, the Dolphins’ total of 175 points easily outpaced Kennesaw State (141). No other school had more than 100 points in the championships. At the conclusion of the indoor season, Phillips and Ron Grigg were voted the Most Outstanding Freshman Performer and the Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year, respectively.
Jacksonville’s women’s rowing program capped a successful spring schedule with its first-ever Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Highlighted by back-to-back first place finishes in the varsity eight heats, the Dolphins concluded the day’s events with a total of 45 points to top second-place Marist with 37.
Just a few weeks prior, Head Coach Jim Mitchell’s women’s team maneuvered the waters of Sarasota, Fla. and was crowned the FIRA Women’s Champions. With four top finishes and just one runner-up, the Dolphins held a 29-point advantage over Nova Southeastern, the No. 1 ranked Div. II National Champions.
On May 30, the young ladies return to their boats as they venture to Indianapolis for the NCAA Division I Rowing Championship.
Following up on the rowing team’s success, the women’s lacrosse team swept through the Atlantic Sun for a second consecutive year en route to a regular season title. The final regular season game was indicative of their dominance in the conference. Elon also came into the game with an unbeaten A-Sun mark, but left licking its wounds after a 17-4 thrashing.
Less than a week later, the Dolphins hosted the Atlantic Sun Championship at Southern Oak Stadium. JU easily navigated a semifinal matchup with Stetson, shutting out the Hatters in the first half and advancing with a 20-4 victory. Two days later, Jacksonville took the championship game with Detroit by the scruff of the neck early on. A nine-goal run in the first half turned a 3-1 lead into a 12-1 demolition before the halftime break. When it was all said and done, the Dolphins had earned their second trip to the NCAA Tournament with an 18-4 win.
Capping the year off was the outdoor track & field team, sweeping both A-Sun championships for the ninth straight year. Starting off the outdoor season on March 22, the Dolphins recorded four individual wins at the UCF Black & Gold Challenge and have earned 22 total individual wins thus far while setting six new outdoor records. Senior Svenja Meyer has recorded three records, Kree Clark two and both Katy Solis and Shanique Walker follow with one apiece. During the season, the Fins earned eight A-Sun Outdoor weekly awards. At the Outdoor Championships just this last weekend, Jacksonville recorded seven individual wins and three conference records. Walker also earned the title of the A-Sun Championship Most Valuable Performer.