WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2004
Aug. 25, 2004
First-year head coach Kevin Paul knows what it takes for the JU program to win after serving as the program's top assistant for the past three seasons. After finishing 2003 with an 8-2 mark in the Atlantic Sun Conference, including an 11-match winning streak, the Dolphins finished as high as third in the conference for the first time since 2000. In three season with the program, Paul has helped the squad to three consecutive appearances in the A-Sun Championship.
Despite losing two-time All-Atlantic Sun outside hitter Radka Dimitrova the Dolphins are fortunate to return five starters, including one of the top blockers in the conference, junior Danielle Neville, and fifth-year senior libero Kelly Ryals. The addition of junior outside hitter Joanna Silva will also provide a spark to the JU offense.
With the benefit of growing with the program, Paul says the squad will have any easy transition despite having a new coach.
"It's an easy transition because I've been in the thick of things here for the last three years and I have a great relationship with the players," Paul said. "We have a good understanding of each other and I believe it's just a matter of continuing the progress we have made."
With the departure of Dimitrova, the Dolphin offense will feature a more balanced attack in 2004. Senior Candice Rose and sophomores Eva Stoilova and Petya Borisova return to help solidify the outside hitter position for JU.
Rose ranked third on the squad last season with 211 kills (2.48 kpg) and will provide leadership as one of two seniors on the squad. Stoilova earned all-conference accolades in her first season after finishing second on the squad with 218 kills (3.25 kpg) and ranking sixth in the nation with an average of 2.35 service aces per contest. Borisova, also a native of Sofia, Bulgaria, finished with 149 digs in 26 matches and proved to be one of the squad's best passers.
"The outside position will be the foundation of our team because we have good balance between ball control and the ability to put the ball away," Paul said.
Juniors Danielle Neville and Lindsay Ward will anchor the middle hitter position for the Dolphins in 2004. Neville ranked third in the conference with a .315 hitting percentage and 1.02 blocks per game last season after earning All-Atlantic Sun accolades with 1.23 blocks per game as freshman.
"Danielle has a great knack for putting herself in the right position to get touches which helps our defense behind her," said Paul.
Ward posted her most productive season in 2003 by ranking third on the squad with 65 total blocks, fourth in aces (19) and fifth in kills (163).
"Lindsay began to show signs of becoming a consistent attacker for us, and I'm looking for her to step up and be a steady player for us this fall."
Freshman Katie Hendrian, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, will also provide depth at the position after leading Seton High School to a pair of Ohio Division I section titles.
The Dolphins will boast versatility and a wealth of experience at the setter and libero positions with junior Erin Donivank, sophomore Erin Hickman and fifth-year senior Kelly Ryals.
Donivan and Hickman will platoon the setter role due to their different styles of play. Donivan led the squad last season with 671 assists while Hickman finished second with 499 assists, but led the squad with an average of 8.91 per contest.
"Both of our setters will see a lot of time on the court this year because each provide us with different strengths," Paul said. "Donivan gives us good athleticism and speed while Hickman gives us solid blocking and consistency."
Ryals, in her fifth season with the program, will serve as the Dolphins' libero and team captain in 2004. She is a versatile player who led the squad with 265 digs (3.27 dpg) in 2003.
"I'm fortunate to have Kelly back on the squad because of the experience she brings," said Paul. "She will provide leadership and help develop our up-and-coming players. Kelly comes to practice every day as if it's a game and I'm hoping that rubs off on the rest of the group."
Sophomore Kerstin Erickson appeared in 25 matches last season and will begin working into the libero position while providing depth off the bench in the back row.