Swan Named ASUN Defensive Player of the Year; Six Dolphins Earn All-ASUN Accolades

Swan Named ASUN Defensive Player of the Year; Six Dolphins Earn All-ASUN Accolades

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MACON, Ga. -- Senior libero Mackenzie Swan was named the ASUN Conference Defensive Player of the Year as she and five other members of Jacksonville University volleyball were named All-ASUN Conference Team selections, as announced by the league Wednesday evening, prior to the start of the 2017 ASUN Tournament on Thursday.

Swan and sophomore Mallory Mattingly were named to the All-ASUN First Team, while senior Olga Nushtayeva and sophomore Amarrah Cooks and Alleah Stamatis garnered All-ASUN Second Team honors. Kendall Murr also earned a spot on the ASUN All-Freshman Team.

A four-time ASUN Defensive Player of the Week honoree, with two of those coming during the 2017 season (Oct. 9 and Oct. 30), Swan earned the league's top defensive award. The Colorado Springs, Colo. native leads the league with 264 digs in conference play and ranks second in the league with 484 total digs. Swan became just the eighth Dolphin in JU's 46-year program history to record 1,000 career digs - a mark she hit earlier this season. Swan was also selected to the All-ASUN First Team.

"I am so proud of Mackenzie. We have had an incredible season and we wouldn't have had the year that we have had without her. She has been a great captain and leader; the way she plays the game, with so much passion, focus, and desire is truly special," stated Head Coach Julie Darty. "I think Mackenzie is deserving of this award, and it so great to see that the league thinks she deserves it as well. It has been a tremendous senior season for Mackenzie and I am so excited and proud of her."

Joining Swan on the First Team is Mattingly. Hailing from Sanford, Fla., the outside hitter leads the ASUN with 1,150 attacks and ranks third in several categories, including kills per set (3.46), service aces, (30), points (401.5), and points per set (4.0). During the season, she recorded double-doubles in 14 of 26 matches, including 10 or more kills in 20 of those matches and 15 or more kills on 12 separate occasions. Her 349 kills rank fourth in the ASUN, while her 290 digs are 10th. Mattingly previously earned ASUN Player of the Week honors for Oct. 3, and was named to the 2016 ASUN All-Freshman Team.

"Mallory was our go-to attacker last year as a freshman, and I think it was great for Mallory's game, and our offense as a team, that we didn't have to rely on her and her alone this year," Darty added. "She was able to work on her complete game, not just attacking this year and it was nice to see her still step up and grow up during her sophomore campaign. Mallory still does quite a bit for this team, but I think it helped to be a more balanced attack this year. I am really proud of Mal. We have a long way to go but she has accomplished much in her young career."

Earning their first ASUN postseason accolades were Cooks and Stamatis, with this being Nushtayeva's second ASUN honor.

A Palm Coast, Fla. native, Nushtayeva had an outstanding year with 231 kills and 75 blocks. Her .314 hitting percentage against league opponents ranked third, while she hit .282 on the season – good for sixth in the league. She posted 10 double-digit kills performances and matched her career-high of eight blocks at Lipscomb on Nov. 8. A middle blocker, she currently sits at fourth all-time at JU with 292 block assists and is tied for fifth with 330 blocks. Nushtayeva was previously an ASUN All-Freshman Team selection in 2014.

Added Darty, "This is such a special honor for Olga. She came in and made the All-Freshman Team back in 2014 and she has definitely put in the work the last four seasons. For her to be recognized by the league in her senior season is an incredible honor. Olga has turned into an incredibly consistent middle blocker for us, both offensively and defensively. I have watched her grow into a mature player and persona, and I am excited for her to earn this ASUN recognition; she has earned it."

Stamatis, the Dolphins' primary setter this season, ranks second in the ASUN with 1,002 assists. The Lexington, Ky. native recorded 11 double-doubles (assists/digs) and posted 50 or more assists in seven matches, including 60 or more twice. She also totaled 214 digs and 23 blocks, and averaged 11.30 assists per set and 2.19 digs per set against league opponents.

"Everyone asks me what the difference has been from 2016 to 2017 and I really only have one way to describe it – Alleah. There are things that Alleah does on the court, that I can't even keep track of statistically, that make us who we are. Alleah makes us go; she fires up her team, she gets everyone to just go hard and go for it," Darty said. 

"It took us some time to go to the 5-1 and let Alleah command the court but when we did, she took control and has done a tremendous job of being a consistent competitor for us. I knew when I recruited Alleah she was special, and I really think we have just started to scratch the surface with her. I know her numbers aren't always great and are not that flashy, but that is part of the beauty of this team – it's not about one person doing it all, it's about each person doing their part and that is totally what Alleah has bought into and done."

Cooks' accuracy on attack was unparalleled as she hit over .300 in 9 of 14 league matches, including a career-high .625 at NJIT on Oct. 1. With 232 kills and 84 blocks, she averages 2.21 kills per set and 0.80 blocks per set and ranks second in the conference with 22 solo blocks. The Columbia, S.C. native totaled a block in 24 of 27 matches, and had multiple blocks in 19 of those contests. She also had at least one block in every match against ASUN opponents, as 55 of her 84 total blocks came in league play. On four separate occasions, she tallied a season-high six blocks, with the most recent on Nov. 10 against NJIT.

"I am so proud of the jump that Amarrah has taken in her game in such a short time. She has become one of the most physically dominant middles in this conference and she hasn't even reached her ceiling yet," commented Darty. "Teams respect Amarrah and game plan for her because she is such a threat, both offensively and defensively. She was one of my first recruits when I got to JU and I am so proud of the strides she is taking in her game. She is the ultimate teammate and will do anything that the team asks of her. It is nice to see that the rest of the league considers her to be a top middle too; I am so proud of Amarrah."

Rounding out the Dolphins' ASUN honorees is Murr. The Yorktown, Ind. native totaled 208 digs – with over half of those against league opponents – while vying for time on the court with Swan. She posted double-digit digs in eight matches, including a career-high 21 against Western Carolina on Sept. 8. She also added 10 service aces, good for third on the team, as five of those came in league matches.

Noted Darty, "I'm so proud of Kendall and the freshman season she has had. She is a gritty, tough defender, and has immediately come in and raised the level of our defense. She is a tough, hard-working kid and her worth ethic is definitely noticed; it has allowed us to be better defensively. She has a bright future ahead of her and we are expecting a lot of her in years to come, but for now I am just so proud of Kendall."

The Dolphins finished the regular season with an 18-9 overall record and 12-2 record in the ASUN. Jacksonville earned the #2 seed in the 2017 ASUN Tournament and will face the winner of the #3 Florida Gulf Coast/#6 USC Upstate match at Lipscomb's Allen Arena in Nashville, Tenn. on Friday, Nov. 18 at 8:30 pm EST.

 

For the full ASUN Conference selections, click here.