NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Friday evening in Nashville was a filled with a different kind of record as Jacksonville University volleyball set two milestones en route to a 3-1 victory at Lipscomb. For the first time since 2004, the Dolphins left Allen Arena victorious and senior Mackenzie Swan had a little more reason to smile, as she became just the eighth player in JU Volleyball's 46-year history to reach 1,000 career digs.
"What a night for this team and this program," said Head Coach Julie Darty. "I'm so proud of Mackenzie Swan, and I am so incredibly proud of every single one of these kids. They fought through some rough spots and some setbacks tonight. We had to overcome a huge third set momentum swing by Lipscomb to come out with a win tonight."
"Coming into college, I didn't expect to play libero or even come close to reaching 1,000 digs, but when the opportunity presented itself I wanted to prove I could step up and take on this role," Swan reflected. "It wasn't always easy, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Being the captain for the defense has been a privilege, and I want to thank my coaches and teammates for pushing me to be the best that I can be. I wouldn't have been able to accomplish this without their support and dedication."
With 422 digs on the year, Swan joins former teammate Sammie Strausbaugh – the last Dolphin to cross the threshold – on the short list of Jacksonville players with 1,000 career digs.
Swan's 1,000th career dig came in the fourth set, as Lipscomb dared the Dolphins to battle back from an early 9-3 deficit in the eventual final set. Jacksonville rallied on a pair of runs – an 8-3 streak to tie the set at 11, and a 6-1 run for a two-point advantage – but the Bisons (13-11, 6-5 ASUN Conference) managed to deadlock the set at 18. Sophomore Amarrah Cooks had a hand in two of JU's next three points – on a kill and a block assist – to help the Dolphins to a 21-18 advantage. That was all Jacksonville needed as the Dolphins held off a pair of two-point Lipscomb surges for a 25-23 set win, and the final 3-1 match victory.
Jacksonville hit above .200 in each of the four sets, as four Dolphins posted double-digit kills. Sophomores Mallory Mattingly (12 kills, 17 digs) and Natalie Wehner (15 kills, 11 digs) recorded double-doubles, while Cooks finished the night with 13 kills and four blocks – two solo – en route to a .476 hitting percentage. Senior Olga Nushtayeva also neared a double-double behind 12 kills (.500 hit %) and matched her career-high of eight blocks. Sophomore Alleah Stamatis totaled 55 assists, six digs, and five blocks, while senior Jessica Armstrong chipped in five kills, three digs, and two blocks.
"Offensively, Alleah did a nice job of finding the hot hand and putting up hittable balls. We didn't need to set any one person too many balls," Darty added. "I like the efficiency we are getting in the middle and on the right from Olga, Amarrah, and Jess; Mallory and Nat continue to impress with double-doubles again and I think they do a good job of complimenting one another because they're so different as attackers. They keep blockers off balance and defenders guessing."
The Dolphins totaled 12.0 team blocks, while Swan's 20-dig performance allowed the Colorado Springs, Colo. native to etch her name in the JU record books.
"Defensively, Mackenzie anchored us with 20 digs back there, and I loved the touches at the net and the first line of defense we put up. We stepped up when we needed to, but there is still so much more room for growth with this team. We have to figure it out and continue to trust the process," said Darty.
The Dolphins opened the match on a 5-2 run behind kills from Wehner, Nushtayeva, and block from Armstrong and Nustayeva to take an 8-5 advantage early on. An 8-2 Dolphin run midway through the set put the game out of reach, 22-16, to erase a tie at 14 as Wehner recorded three kills during that run. Following a Bisons timeout, Jacksonville answered each of Lipscomb's three points, and a kill from Cooks shut the door on the first set, 25-19.
Jacksonville leapt out to a four-point lead, 10-6, in set two, but the Bisons countered with a 5-1 rally to tie the set up at 11. A kill from Armstrong coupled with a solo block by Cooks gave JU a two-point advantage at 16-14, but Lipscomb again tied the set at 17. Coming out of their timeout, the Dolphins saw kills from Wehner and Nushtayeva for a 20-17 advantage, but a second 5-1 Lipscomb rally gave the surged the hosts ahead, 22-21. Eight ties in the score ensured, but it was back-to-back kills from Cooks that lifted JU a 31-29 win and a 2-0 advantage.
An identical 10-6 Dolphin advantage opened the third set, but with a different outcome. Jacksonville held a 14-10 lead, but Lipscomb battled back with a 6-2 rally to tie the set at 16. Both teams fought for the advantage, but the Bisons took the final four points to steal the set, 25-21, and set the Dolphins up for the decisive fourth game.
Carlyle Nusbaum posted 28 kills and 13 digs to lead the Bisons, while Lauren Anderson (14 kills) and Maddie Phillips (13 kills) added double-digit kill performances. Morgan Elmore finished the match with 55 assists and Brittany Thomas added 20 digs to help Lipscomb defensively.
Now 16-8 overall and 10-1 in the ASUN, the Dolphins square up with the Owls tomorrow night at Kennesaw State in a battle for first place in the ASUN. Opening serve is set for 7 p.m.