NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jacksonville University volleyball's storybook season came to an end in the ASUN Tournament semifinal Friday evening as the #2 Dolphins were upset by #3 Florida Gulf Coast, 3-0, at Lipscomb's Allen Arena.
"I'm sad to see the season end. I am heartbroken for the team in how we ended, but I am so proud of the season we had," stated Head Coach Julie Darty. "We accomplished so much this season, and I think there are a lot of things we can build off of. We are still so young in a lot of positions, so I think this was about growing up. We grew up tonight."
The All-ASUN Second Team duo of sophomores Amarrah Cooks and Alleah Stamatis led the Dolphins, as Cooks hit .550 with 13 kills and four blocks and Stamatis totaled 36 assists, six digs, and four blocks of her own. ASUN Defensive Player of the Year senior Mackenzie Swan led both teams with 22 digs, while fellow All-ASUN First Team selection sophomore Mallory Mattingly added nine kills, 16 digs, a service ace, and a block.
Senior Olga Nushtayeva broke into the Dolphin record books as her three blocks decisively gave her fourth all-time with 295 block assists. The Palm Coast, Fla. native is now also tied for fourth with 333 total blocks.
"Amarrah was unreal tonight; I have never seen her play with so much fire. Alleah was trying to get her as many balls as possible because she was unstoppable," credited Darty.
Jacksonville finished the season with an 18-10 overall record, while FGCU advances to the ASUN Tournament final tomorrow against #1 Kennesaw State.
Jacksonville forced FGCU (22-9) to call a time out early in the match opener as a 4-1 run, highlighted by a pair of kills from Cooks and a kill and solo block from senior Cristina Finan, as the Dolphins leapt out to an 8-5 lead. The Eagles countered with a 4-1 run to push ahead, but Nushtayeva and Stamatis combined on a block to deadlock the set at 11. Down two, 14-12, Jacksonville took four-straight Dolphin points to regain the advantage, 16-14; however, the Eagles used a 10-4 run down the stretch to take the first set, 25-20.
The Dolphins found themselves in a 6-1 deficit to start the second game, but Nushtayeva and senior Jessica Armstrong capped the Eagles' offense with a block. Jacksonville then matched the Eagles point for point before the Dolphins battled their way back as six consecutive points capped a 8-1 run to surge JU ahead, 18-16. Facing a two-point deficit, the Dolphins saw kills from Finan, Stamatis, and Mattingly for a 24-23 lead. Three Eagle points closed out the set as FGCU took a 2-0 lead, 26-24.
The Dolphins briefly led, 6-5, out of the intermission, but a five-point run from FGCU lifted the Eagles, 10-6. A pair of kills from Cooks, sparked by a kill from Mattingly, surged the Dolphins within one, 10-9. However, a 6-1 Eagle run down the stretch saw FGCU take a 16-10 advantage. Staring down an 18-12 deficit, the Dolphins halved that with back-to-back kills from Armstrong and a third from Nushtayeva to pressure the Eagles to call for a timeout. A close play at the Eagles' end line that would've brought JU within two stood in favor of FGCU as the number three seed extended its lead to match point, 24-18. The Dolphins pushed back and won the next three kills, but were unable to stop the Eagles' final point as FGCU took the match in the third set, 25-21.
Finan finished the match with five kills, 10 digs, a solo block, and a service ace, while Mattingly recorded nine kills and 16 digs. Freshman Kendall Murr recorded 11 digs, while Armstrong contributed six kills and two blocks.
Snowy Burnham (13 kills, 11 digs, 7 blocks) and Amanda Carroll (18 kills, 17 digs, 3 blocks) led the Eagles with double-doubles.
"These girls will remember this feeling; we will learn from this," added Darty. "I'm still so proud of this group – no gym and a lot of setbacks, but also a huge amount of success. We will be better for it."