JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University volleyball extended its winning record against ASUN Conference competition Friday afternoon with a 3-1 victory over Kennesaw State – the only other unbeaten team in the league – at UNF Arena.
"The communication and constant energy was huge for us," stated Head Coach Julie Darty. "Those are things we talk a lot about – consistency and communication – and those two things were key for us tonight."
Jacksonville (10-7, 4-0 ASUN) hit .329 as a team in the contest – a testament to sophomore setter Alleah Stamatis' distributing abilities as her 48 assists guided four Dolphins to .275 or better hitting percentages in the offensive showcase. The Dolphins hit .250 or above in each of the four sets.
"When Alleah is dishing and moving the ball around, and we have middles with 20+ swings like they had tonight, that's a great night for us. Our middles hit over .400, so I think it was a no-brainer for her to keep giving them balls," Darty added.
Sophomores Mallory Mattingly and Natalie Wehner posted double-doubles, as Mattingly (.275) led the charge against the Owls with 16 kills and 20 digs. Both Wehner (14 kills and 12 digs) and freshman Hannah Marchand (six kills, 4 blocks) hit .312. Additionally, sophomore Amarrah Cooks and senior Olga Nushtayeva posted impressive hitting percentages at .400 and .435, respectively. Cooks tallied 13 kills and two blocks, while Nushtayeva added 11 kills and four blocks.
Continued Darty, "Our sophomores are really stepping up in terms of the consistency of their play; that's something that we can really key in on and lean on. I'm proud of our service pressure; from the service line, we picked [Kennesaw State] apart and did a really good job of managing that."
Senior defensive specialist Mackenzie Swan led both teams with 22 digs – some that came the hard way as her – and the entire Dolphin contingent's – physical play diving for loose balls aided JU on several points that seemed impossible to reach.
"Overall, it was a total team win," said Darty. "Every single person on the stat sheet put up numbers, and our bench was unreal with giving information to our attackers on where to swing."
The Dolphins leapt out to a 5-1 lead early on as Cooks and Wehner contributed kills to open the match. Three Owl points later, Kennesaw State (9-4, 3-1 ASUN) closed within one, 5-4, and continued to pressure the Dolphins early in the set. Ahead by one, 10-9, Jacksonville used a 5-0 run with kills from Mattingly, Cooks, Stamatis, and Wehner to surge ahead. From that point, the Dolphins didn't allow more than two consecutive Owl points, as JU closed out the set on a 5-2 run to take the match opener, 25-19.
The second game was similar to the first, as JU opened with a 5-2 advantage. The Owls, however, showed some fight with a 5-1 rally to fly ahead, 7-6. Although Kennesaw State held a slim lead for several points, the Dolphins stayed close, tying the set at 9, 10, and 11, before a 5-1 spell gave Jacksonville a lead it wouldn't relinquish the rest of the set. The Dolphins were able to hold off a 5-2 Owl rally late in the set that saw the visitors shrink JU's four-point lead from 22-18 to 23-22. However, an Owl miscue and a kill from Wehner solidified Jacksonville's 2-0 lead in the match, 25-23.
Finding a spark after the intermission, Kennesaw State opened the third game with a 5-0 lead before JU called for a timeout. The Owls extended their lead to 12-5 before the Dolphins answered back with a 4-1 run to come back within four, 13-9. JU continued to answer the Owls' call as a second mid-set run cut the visitors' lead to just two, 17-15, before Kennesaw was forced to use a timeout. The teams traded points before Jacksonville was staring down the Owls at set point at 24-20. Wehner and Mattingly tallied kills to threaten the Owls, 24-22, but the visitors managed a clincher to take set three, 25-22.
As the teams battled to an 11-11 deadlock in the fourth, the Dolphins found a spark as a 6-1 wave of points surged Jacksonville ahead, 17-12. Despite a 4-1 scoring effort by the Owls thereafter, JU held off KSU en route to a 25-22 win to seal the match and the top of the ASUN standings.
Anaiah Boyer led the Owls with 17 kills, while Katarina Morton tallied 21 digs for Kennesaw State.
"This is a win to build off of," Darty concluded. "We have a huge match tomorrow with Lipscomb, but were going to get some rest and get prepared for them tomorrow."
The Dolphins return to the court tomorrow when they face the Bisons at UNF Arena at 4 p.m.