MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Jacksonville University volleyball battled from behind in both matches on the final day of the ISTAP Collegiate Cup Invitational as the Dolphins opened the day with a come-from-behind victory, 3-1, over Southeastern Louisiana, and rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to force a fifth set with Alabama State later in the day, but ultimately fell, 3-2, Saturday.
The Dolphins (4-5) started the first match a little slow as Southeastern Louisiana took the first set, 25-12; however, Jacksonville rebounded and took the next three sets, 25-19, 25-19, 25-12.
"I wish that first set started a little different, but I'm pleased with how they responded," said Head Coach Julie Darty. "Once our first contact got better and we decided to have a commitment to not let balls touch the floor, and we had some of those scrappy plays that we saw last night where people were throwing their bodies out, making plays for the ball, and that changed our mindset. It was a mental approach for us."
Regarding her talk between the first and second sets, Darty added, "We talked about the fact that this is the earliest match that we've played this year, and I get that we need a little time to wake up. We have to expect more from ourselves and worry more about controlling what's on our side of the net and less about what's going on on the other side of the net."
vs. Southeastern Louisiana
Southeastern Louisiana (1-7) leapt out to a 6-1 lead early in the set as the Dolphins struggled to recover, and trailed 17-6 through the middle of the set. Amarrah Cooks and Mallory Mattingly came up big with a block during a 4-1 run, but the Lady Lions took the first set, 25-12.
The Dolphins started to get back on their feet in the second set with a 3-1 lead to open the game. Jacksonville stayed ahead of the Lady Lions throughout the set, despite 11 ties in the score down the stretch. Tied at 15, a kill from Mattingly followed by a block from Olga Nushtayeva and Jessica Armstrong jump started the Dolphins' offense and closed the set with a 7-2 run to tie the match up, 25-19.
While the early points of the third set remained close, Jacksonville put the pressure on the Lady Lions early and often. Kills from Mattingly and Cooks, along with a service ace Alleah Stamatis, allowed JU to double up Southeastern Louisiana, 10-5. After exchanging several points, the Dolphins scored five unanswered for a 20-11 advantage. At set point, Jacksonville the fended off a 5-0 rally from the Lady Lions with a 25-19 win.
A dominating performance in the fourth set saw the Dolphins back in their familiar ways, as they scrapped for seemingly lost points and forced Southeastern Louisiana to take both timeouts relatively early in the set. Jacksonville allowed only five points and held a 10-5 lead when the Lady Lions took their first timeout and the Dolphins came out on a 6-1 tear before Southeastern Louisiana asked for their second reprieve. JU's defense was a spectacle, and did not allow more than two consecutive points from the Lady Lions at any time during the set – and that only happened once. Six different Dolphins contributed points to close out the set, 25-12.
Finan posted her second double-double of the weekend with 12 kills and 11 digs, while Cooks added 12 kills on 20 attempts as the duo hit .276 and .500, respectively. Marchand (.350) and Nushtayeva (.312) also had an impressive match and combined for 17 kills while hitting over .300. Stamatis Mackenzie Swan led JU with 20 assists and 20 digs, respectively.
Sam Gomez led the Lady Lions with 11 kills, while Haley Baker had a double-double with 18 assists and 10 digs.
vs. Alabama State
Jacksonville worked to find an answer after Alabama State (4-6) jumped out to a 5-0 lead. It didn't take long before the Dolphins got rolling with an 8-0 rally to erase a five-point deficit and command the lead, 17-15. The Hornets … to tie the set at 22, and managed to steal the set after several points swung in their favor, 25-22.
Jacksonville found itself in a 7-2 hole early on in the set, as attack errors plagued the Dolphins. JU was able to answer back on several points throughout the middle of the game, but three straight points from the hosts saw the Dolphins call its second timeout of the set down 20-11. Jacksonville earned four more points, but were unable to overcome the early deficit, 25-15.
The Dolphins forced a fourth set behind their aggressive, gritty play and capitalized on several errors and miscues from Alabama State. With six ties in the third set alone, Jacksonville and Alabama State kept the set close and tied at 16 as the Hornets called for a timeout. The Dolphins then went on a 5-1 run behind kills from Cooks and Finan, and back-to-back service aces from Marchand. ASU attempted a comeback and came within two, but the Dolphins shut the door on the Hornets, 25-20.
Riding a three-point lead to open the set, the Dolphins relented just once, at 8-7, before finding another gear. Cooks erased the deficit herself with three-straight kills to give JU a 10-8 lead it wouldn't relinquish. A 4-0 run extended the Dolphins' lead to 16-10 and later, to 21-13 to put the set out of reach. A kill from Olga Nushtayeva was the exclamation point on Jacksonville's two-set comeback, 25-16.
Despite returning to its scrappy play in the previous two games, Jacksonville struggled to find its footing in the deciding set. Down 3-1 early on, the Dolphins tied the set at four-all but were unable to push ahead of the Hornets. After switching benches midway through the set and calling a timeout, the Dolphins suffered three consecutive attack errors – the deciding factor – and found themselves down, 11-6. Jacksonville was unable to recover as the Hornets took the set and the match, 15-9.
Cooks and Mattingly led the team with 14 and 12 kills, respectively, while Stamatis had a game-high 28 assists. Mackenzie Swan added 24 digs, and Marchand led the team with four blocks, including two solo.
Alabama State's Ni'yesha Brown led the Hornets with 18 kills and 14 digs, while Kori Kutsch added 25 digs.
The Dolphins return to action next weekend when they open play at Historic Swisher Gymnasium with the 2017 Dolphins Invitational. Jacksonville will play host to Presbyterian, Austin Peay, and South Florida in the two-day tournament.