JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With just four newcomers to the roster in 2017, Jacksonville University Volleyball has welcomed the new additions with open arms – and healthy competition on the court during the preseason.
"The first day went as expected," said Head Coach Julie Darty. "I think there's always nerves and jitters for the new players that come in, but overall the things that we're asking them to control on a daily basis – their attitude, their effort, their intensity – are great. They're setting the bar pretty high for themselves; they're calling each other out and keeping each other accountable for the things that we want to pride ourselves on. They're taking care of each other; they're putting each other first and doing what's best for the team."
"This preseason we started jelling as a group on day one," noted Cristina Finan, one of five seniors on the Dolphins' roster this season. "We have a ton of energy. We only have a few new people, but it feels like it's a whole new, fresh, high-energy group."
"There's been a lot of good chemistry right off the bat. Last year, it took time to get comfortable and hold people accountable, but this year, it's like, 'no, we're doing it,' not matter if you're a freshman or a senior," added senior Mackenzie Swan.
The Dolphins are now three days into the preseason, and Darty credits her setters, sophomore Alleah Stamatis and junior Lauren Petersen, for starting a ripple effect in bringing the competitive nature during two-a-days.
"The atmosphere is competitive. Position by position, it's going to be a battle. It starts with our setters – Alleah and Lauren do a really good job of pushing each other so hard that you can't help but feel it. Everybody else feels that competition in the air and follows that lead."
"From day one of practice, we've been competing with each other which is awesome so we have high-intensity volleyball all the time," said freshman Hannah Marchand. "We get along so well, but at the same time, we're competing. We're all working really hard for our spots. The atmosphere is really fun, but when it's time to get to work, we do."
Talks of winning the ASUN Championship are buzzing, but Swan has another expectation for the season. "I want to defend our home court. I think that would be really cool. Other teams don't like playing in Swisher; it's a hard gym to play in, so I think it would be cool to go undefeated at home."
The Dolphins head to Clemson for their season-opener on Aug. 25 and continue with a nine-game road journey before the home-opener Sept. 15 against Presbyterian.
"They bought into the process; they definitely understand that this is going to be a slow, gradual build," added Darty. "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon and they understand that it's going to be hard and it's ok to be uncomfortable. They're willing to go outside of their comfort zone and that's all that we can ask for."