After pushing its winning streak to nine matches, the JU volleyball team (12-5, 8-2) will begin a four-game road trip beginning with cross-town rival UNF (8-11, 3-7) at UNF Arena on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
In the first meeting this season, the Dolphins earned their first point in the SunTrust River City Rumble with a 3-0 victory over the Ospreys on Sept. 16 at Swisher Gymnasium.
The contest can be seen live through ASun.TV by logging onto JUDolphins.com.
After being shutout in straight sets against Belmont and Lipscomb to open A-Sun play, JU has won nine straight matches...the winning streak is the longest under head coach Shaun Kupferberg, surpassing a seven match run in 2007...the longest winning streak for JU since joining the A-Sun in 1998 was 11 by the 2003 squad...the Dolphins have also won 13 straight home matches which is the longest in the Division I era (1985-current)...JU’s 6-0 mark at home this season is the best start since the Dolphins joined the A-Sun.
Injury bug plagues Dolphins
Injuries are always a part of any sport and they affect every team each year, but the Dolphins’ injury report in 2009 has lit up like a game of Operation.
Entering the year, senior middle blocker Nicki Kent was already plagued with a chronic lower back injury but a knee injury on Sept. 25 forced her to miss three matches, and is still limited.
Freshman middle blocker Alison Loeppky has stepped up to fill the void left by Kent’s missing time but now she has been sidelined with a finger injury suffered on Oct. 9.
Junior outside hitter/middle blocker Brittany Lehman has been enjoying a break out season from the outside and also has been used to fill in defensively in middle until an abdominal strain on Oct. 9 has put her on limited status as well.
Throw in the nagging ankle injuries to junior setter Hannah Munneke and sophomore outside hitter/middle blocker Kathryn Kane during the team’s road trip through Georgia (10/2-3) and JU might have to start pulling people from the stands to complete a roster.
Walroth counting down
Senior libero Shelley Walroth reached yet another milestone and is setting her sights on cracking the top 25 spots in NCAA history.
After tallying the JU single-season record for digs as a freshman, Walroth surpassed Julie Heipp - 1,324 (1991-94) on the career list last season with 25 against Georgia Southern on Sept. 30, 2008.
As a junior, she earned first team all-conference and A-Sun Defensive “Player of the Year” accolades while also garnering 2008 AVCA “Libero of the Year” Honorable Mention honors after ranking fourth in the nation with 5.87 dps.
This year, Walroth added an A-Sun record to her belt by overtaking Ann Mullins of Lipscomb (1,969) for career digs with 21 against Sam Houston State on Sept. 5.
With 17 at Belmont, she surpassed 2,000 in her career and her next targets are family bragging rights and the NCAA Top 25.
Walroth’s sister, Julie, tallied 2,095 career digs to set the program record at Evansville (2004-07). The younger Walroth already holds the family single-season record, and surpassed her elder sibling with 12 digs against Stetson, to become the undisputed head of the family.
In the NCAA career standings, Walroth needs 18 digs to crack the top 25 all-time and has a chance to etch her name in the record books for some time. The Division I record for career digs is 3,176 by Lara Newberry of Chattanooga from 2005-08.
Walroth, who has tallied at least 20 digs in nine matches this year, currently leads the A-Sun with an average of 5.36 digs per set. She has also found her way into the national rankings by sitting 16th with her digs per set average.
Dolphins in the A-Sun rankings
In the team rankings, JU is first in opponent hitting percentage (.134) and digs (16.28 dps)...third in hitting percentage (.214), blocks (1.90 bps) and service aces (1.59 aps)...fourth in assists (11.67 aps) and kills (12.50 kps).
Individually, senior libero Shelley Walroth is first in digs per set (5.36) and second in digs (267)...senior middle blocker Nicki Kent is first in blocks per set (1.16) and fifth in hitting percentage (.314)...junior middle blocker Brittany Lehman is fifth in aces per set (0.37)...junior setter Hannah Munneke is seventh in assists per set (7.68)...junior outside hitter Aidan Yeager is seventh in kills per set (3.31) and ninth in hitting percentage (.300).
Defense leads the way
JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg sets a precedent on defense and the stats have proven that since his arrival in 2006. Last season, JU took defense to a new level as the Dolphin led nearly every A-Sun category.
In his first season, the Dolphins ranked first in blocks, fourth in opponent hitting percentage and fifth in digs. In year two, JU ranked first in blocks, third in opponent hitting percentage and sixth in digs. Last year, the Dolphins set the standard by ranking first in blocks and opponent hitting percentage and second in digs.
This year is following the same tune as the Dolphins lead the A-Sun in opponent hitting percentage and digs while ranking third in blocks.
No “Clark” in this Kent
Senior middle hitter Nicki Kent is coming into her own in 2009 after being in the shadows of former teammates Melissa Merchant and Abby Gruenbacher.
Since her arrival as a transfer from Wyoming in 2007, Kent had mainly been used off the bench or as a serving specialist as she tried to find her niche.
Now in her final season with the program, she is the main presence at the net for the Dolphins and the numbers are beginning to reflect it.
More amazing is the fact that she has still been playing at a high level despite not being in perfect health. Already suffering from a chronic back injury, Kent has also had to deal with a knee injury suffered on Sept. 25 against FGCU.
Kent currently leads the A-Sun in blocks with 1.16 blocks per set and also ranks fifth in the conference with a .314 hitting percentage.
Brook-E seeing double
Senior outside hitter Brooke Singleton, or Brook with an “E,” in hitting her stride in her second year with program after transferring from Illinois State.
A two-sport phenom at Roseville High School, Singleton led the volleyball team to a 124-30 record, four straight regional title and currently ranks 13th in the state of Illinois in career kills. But in basketball, she was a three-time all-state selection, Roseville’s all-time leading scorer and a three-time all-area “Player of the Year.”
After high school, Singleton hung up the knee pads and played three years of basketball at Illinois State where she helped lead the Redbirds to the NCAA Tournament in 2008.
Last season, she enjoyed success as the Dolphins’ top passer but used most of the year to redefine her technique from the outside.
This year has been a different story as she leads JU with 164 kills while ranking second with 2.83 kills per set, 165 digs and 2.84 digs per set. Singleton also leads the squad with six double-doubles, including one in the last three matches.