JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University volleyball swept the weekend to extend their win streak to six games with a 3-1 victory over Lipscomb, Saturday afternoon at UNF Arena.
"It was a good night in terms of how balanced our offense was," said Head Coach Julie Darty. "I think this team finally believes that they're worth something and they have some confidence to play with right now. We know it's only going to get more tough and every single team in this league is a worthy, competent opponent. Every single match we get to play is a treat and an opportunity, and I hope that we continue to grow and go in the right direction."
With its sixth-straight victory - and fifth in ASUN Conference play - Jacksonville improves to 11-7 on the year and 5-0 in the league.
The Dolphins held the Bisons to a .000 hitting percentage in the final two sets, and hit .375 and .261 in the third and fourth sets, respectively, to deliver the knockout punch to the visitors.
"It was an awesome night, we were getting positive touches on the block and our floor defense was picking up everything back there. There's definitely a sense of urgency with not letting the ball hit the floor out there," Darty added.
Also crediting Associate Head Coach Ryan Sullivan and his contributions to the Dolphins' defensive improvements, Darty continued, "Ryan does a great job with our blockers and our floor defense and we were able to do some blocking switch stuff to slow everybody down."
"We made the switch with [Jess Armstrong] tonight for a better blocking matchup, and she came alive attacking for us; she was super efficient," added Darty.
Lipscomb (8-9, 2-3 ASUN) opened the match on a 9-2 run to put Jacksonville in a hole early on. The Dolphins struggled to get a hold on the set, despite kills from Cooks, Mattingly, and Wehner. A 5-2 run in the middle of the game lifted the visitors to an 18-8 advantage before they closed out the set on four-straight points, 25-12.
Despite a slow start in the opener, the Dolphins quickly found their stride with a 5-3 lead to open the second set. The Bisons tied the set at 5, but that was the final time in the set that Lipscomb was able to close in on the Dolphins. A 7-2 surge gave Jacksonville a 12-7 advantage as Cooks, senior Olga Nushtayeva, and Armstrong posted kills. Lipscomb threatened a comeback behind a 5-1 rally to come within two, 18-16, and after two Dolphin points, called for a timeout. Needing just two points to close out the set, 23-18, Jacksonville fell victim to a pair of service aces and a Bison kill before calling their own timeout. Sophomores Mallory Mattingly and Natalie Wehner provided the final two points on back-to-back kills, 25-21.
Jacksonville jumped out to an 11-3 lead behind kills from Armstrong, Nushtayeva, sophomore Alleah Stamatis, and a tandem block from Nushtayeva and Stamatis. A service ace from senior Mackenzie Swan put the Dolphins ahead, 17-12, and JU continued to extend its lead after several Bison miscues. Keeping the Bisons from scoring more than one point at a time, the Dolphins went on a 3-1 scoring run put the set away, 25-18.
A 5-3 Dolphin lead was negated by a 3-1 Lipscomb run to tie the set at 6. However, Jacksonville scored the next four points, 10-6, to force the Bisons to call their first timeout of the set. LU came within one, 10-9, before six-straight Dolphin points – including kills from Cooks, Armstrong, and an ace from Stamatis – put the set out of the Bisons' reach, 16-9. A 4-2 run from Jacksonville right after pushed their lead to nine, 20-11, and, despite a late 3-1 Lipscomb run, Jacksonville came away with the win, 25-17.
Mattingly led Jacksonville with nine kills and four digs as seven different Dolphins posted a kill. Stamatis added 29 assists, as she, Mattingly, and Swan recorded service aces. Swan added a team-high 10 digs.
Carlyle Nusbaum recorded a double-double for Lipscomb with 14 kills and 13 digs, and Samantha Rubal posted five blocks for the Bisons.
Adding some final thoughts, Darty said, "It's all about peaking at the right time, and I think we're steadily climbing to be peak at the right time in November. I'm really excited about the girls and happy for them; I want them to savor this and enjoy this moment. We've got our eyes on FGCU and Stetson as we get back on the road. Like I said, it's not going to get any easier. We're excited to get back into the gym and get after it."
The Dolphins return to action next weekend when they head south to continue ASUN at Florida Gulf Coast Friday, Oct. 13 and at Stetson Saturday, Oct. 14.