FORT MYERS, Fla. – Jacksonville University volleyball faced its toughest opponent in ASUN Conference action this season and despite battling in the middle of each set, stumbled, 3-0, to Florida Gulf Coast Friday evening at Alico Arena.
"Tonight was a tough night, but this is something we can look back on and learn a lot from," said Head Coach Julie Darty. "We just didn't get it done, offensively or defensively, and when you can't follow a game plan and execute it, you let the other team take over and control the match.
"We made some good adjustments, but we just really were not sharp tonight. It felt like we were a little shell-shocked and FGCU did a nice job of making us very uncomfortable. I am hopeful that we can learn from this loss and get better as a team."
The Dolphins were led by sophomore Mallory Mattingly, who posted her ninth double-double of the season behind 13 kills and 12 digs. Classmate Natalie Wehner closed in on a double-double with seven kills and nine digs, and added three service aces in the Dolphins' effort, while sophomore Alleah Stamatis added 24 assists. Seniors Mackenzie Swan and Olga Nushtayeva led JU with 19 digs and three blocks, respectively.
Jacksonville (11-8, 5-1 ASUN) opened the set with a 4-3 lead, and a four-point run in the middle of the set kept the Dolphins ahead, 9-8. Tied at 11, Florida Gulf Coast (14-6, 5-1 ASUN) used a 7-2 run to jump ahead, 17-13. However, Jacksonville tied the set back at 17 behind kills from Jessica Armstrong, Natalie Wehner, and a service ace from Mallory Mattingly. The Eagles scored four out of the next five points, 21-18, and added the final four points following a Dolphin timeout to take the first set, 25-21.
The Eagles jumped out to a 5-1 advantage, but Jacksonville countered with a 7-2 rally as Cooks, Mattingly, and Wehner all had kills to help give JU an 8-7 lead. Tied at 10, FGCU took a 6-2 run to put the set out of reach. The Dolphins came back within two, 17-15, and used a late 4-1 rally to pressure the host Eagles, 22-20. However, FGCU found the last three points of the set for a 25-20 win.
The Dolphins found themselves in a 4-0 deficit early, before Cooks found a point for JU. The Eagles tacked on six more points before JU got rolling with a 6-3 run, including two kills each from Mattingly and Cooks, and a service ace from Mackenzie Swan, to bring JU within four, 13-9. With Kendall Murr at the service line, Jacksonville went off on an 8-2 run tie the set at 17. FGCU then went on a 5-0 streak to lead, 22-17. Despite two more Dolphin points, the Eagles took the set, 25-20, and the match, 3-0.
"I am hopeful that we can get dialed in and prepared for our match tomorrow because we have another opportunity to compete and improve," added Darty. "We are still growing and figuring a lot of things out; I think we got a little too comfortable and this is truly the first time we have been pushed to be uncomfortable and I hope we can respond to this on Saturday in our next outing."
The Dolphins return to the court tomorrow, Oct. 14, when they visit Stetson for a 6 p.m. match.