After pushing its winning streak to a record 13 matches, the JU volleyball team (16-5, 12-2) prepares for a showdown at Swisher Gymnasium with first place Lipscomb (20-3, 15-0) on Friday at 7 p.m.
JU will end its two-game homestand against Belmont (12-13, 8-7) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
In the first meeting this season, the Dolphins were shut out by the Bisons in Nashville on Sept. 12 to give Lipscomb a win in the last five meetings between the two schools.
Against the Bruins, JU began its Nashville road trip with a 3-0 loss to Belmont on Sept. 11. It was the third straight loss for the Dolphins against Bruins.
The contest against Lipscomb was originally scheduled to be shown on ASun.TV but due to the JU women’s soccer team hosting the first round of conference tournament that same night, the volleyball match with the Bisons has been cancelled. The weekend finale against the Bruins can be viewed live on 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 13 straight matches...the winning streak is the longest under head coach Shaun Kupferberg, surpassing a seven-match run in 2007...the winning streak is also the longest for JU since joining the A-Sun in 1998, surpassing 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...JU has won its last seven road matches, making it the longest winning streak on the road since joining the A-Sun (6, 2003)...the Dolphins are also 3-0 this season in five-set matches compared to 0-5 last year.
Somethings gotta give
The matchup between first place Lipscomb and second place JU will pose a lot of questions before the match but everyone of them will be answered at the conclusion.
Among the interesting tidbits that await the Dolphins vs. Bisons showdown: Lipscomb owns a 17 match winning streak while JU enters with a 13-match run...the Bisons have won eight straight road contests while JU is in the midst of a program-best 13 straight home victories...Lipscomb leads the conference with a .269 hitting percentage while JU leads the A-Sun with a .132 opponent hitting percentage.
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.
Kane is able
With the slough of injuries on the Dolphin squad this season, several players have stepped up when the spotlight was shining on them.
No person has stepped up her game more in the last four matches than sophomore outside hitter Kathryn Kane.
With the rotating of players to fit the holes in the lineup, Kane has found her swing from the outside and the added offense is contributing to a dynamic attack for JU.
After tallying a career-best 16 kills and 21 digs at Louisiana Tech on Sept. 4, Kane did not break the double digit kill mark until she registered 11 kills and 16 digs at UNF on Oct. 13. She followed that effort with 13 kills at Stetson (Oct. 16), 15 kills and 16 digs at FGCU (Oct. 17) and a career-best 17 kills at USC Upstate (Oct. 24).
Along with her four match double digit kill streak, she hit a career-best .458 (13-2-24) at Stetson while also tallying a career-high five aces at UNF.
In her last four matches, Kane is averaging 3.50 kills, 2.50 digs and 0.56 service aces while hitting .311 (56-10-148).
Walroth counting down
Senior libero Shelley Walroth made her way into the top 15 spots in NCAA history and is primed to continue her way up the ladder.
In the NCAA career standings, Walroth moved into 15th place all-time with 2,280 and needs 12 more to move into 14th and 64 more to move into the top 10. The Division I record for career digs is 3,176 by Lara Newberry of Chattanooga from 2005-08.
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.
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. She then passed the 2,000 career mark with 17 digs at Belmont.
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.
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.
Walroth, who set a JU match record with 46 digs at FGCU, currently leads the A-Sun with an average of 5.53 digs per set. She has also moved up in the national rankings by tying for eighth with her digs per set average.
Dolphins in the A-Sun rankings
In the team rankings, JU is first in opponent hitting percentage (.132)...second in hitting percentage (.225) and service aces (1.70 aps)...third in blocks (1.85 bps) and digs (16.49 dps)...fourth in assists (11.88 aps) and kills (12.78 kps).
Individually, senior libero Shelley Walroth is first in digs per set (5.53) and digs (409)...senior middle blocker Nicki Kent is first in blocks per set (1.12) and fourth in hitting percentage (.315)...junior middle blocker Brittany Lehman is second in aces per set (0.44)...junior setter Hannah Munneke is sixth in assists per set (8.37)...junior outside hitter Aidan Yeager is eighth in kills per set (3.18)...senior outside hitter Brooke Singleton is also eighth in kills per set (3.18 kps)...sophomore outside hitter Kathryn Kane is 10th in aces per set (0.30).
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 while ranking third in digs and fourth in blocks.
Munneke back to her old tricks
Last season, JU got off to a sluggish start and made a lineup change to get a spark for the rest of the season. This year, the Dolphins had another slow start but a different change is creating the same results.
In 2008, the Dolphins went 2-4 in a 6-1 formation until head coach Shaun Kupferberg went to the chemistry lab and conjured up a 6-2 lineup for the first time in his career.
The new look led to an 18-6 finish as setters Hannah Munneke and Ashley August contributed to a balanced attack.
In 2009, the Dolphins started out in the 6-2 but got off to a 6-5 start. Kupferberg decided to go exclusively to Munneke in a 6-1 format and the junior has flourished over the last 10 matches.
Since taking over the lead setter spot, Munneke is averaging 11.63 assists per set and the Dolphins are 10-0. JU has also found its way into the top three offensively by ranking second in hitting percentage (.225), which is the highest mark under Kupferberg.
No stranger to the lead role, Munneke set a program record in 2007 with 1,356 assists and ranked third in the A-Sun with 11.61 assists per set en route to all-freshman team honors.
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 235 kills and 3.18 kills per set and is second with 213 digs and 2.88 digs per set. Singleton also leads the squad with nine double-doubles and ranks eighth in the conference in kills per set.
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 1.12 blocks per set and also ranks fourth in the conference with a .315 hitting percentage.