Aug. 8, 2007
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The once silent Swisher Gymnasium will soon hear the sounds of white balls being struck along with the vibrations of bodies rolling across its surface as the JU volleyball team officially opens preseason camp today under the direction of second-year head coach Shaun Kupferberg.
In his first season with the program, Kupferberg adjusted to his new surroundings, a new coaching staff and new players to lead the Dolphins to only their second Atlantic Sun Conference Championship final appearance in program history.
The Dolphins will be hitting the ground running in 2007 as Kupferberg had the luxury of preparing for the upcoming season, adding a familiar face to his coaching staff (Kelly Hopkins - a player and assistant coach with Kupferberg at Northwest University), while also bringing in seven new players to mold in his new program.
"The staff and players are all excited about the new opportunities presented to us this year," Kupferberg said. "We have 12 talented players on our roster and our success will be dependent on our ability to work as a team and push each other in practice."
Among the new faces will be sophomore transfer Nicki Kent (Wyoming) and junior college transfer Kesley Clark (Miami Dade CC) along with freshmen Abby Gruenbacher (Wichita, Kan.), Brittany Lehman (Colleyville, Texas), Hannah Munneke (Santa Barbara, Calif.), Alexa Napoleon (Naples, Fla.) and Aidan Yeager (Martinez, Ga.).
Making up the talented returnees for the Dolphins will be A-Sun all-freshman libero Michelle Walroth, senior middle blockers Melissa Merchant and Katie Hendrian, senior defensive specialist Katie O'Brien and junior outside hitter Sara Bendorf. Bendorf, who led the Dolphins with a 3.42 kills per game average before suffering a knee injury last season, will take things slow in the fall after recovering from surgery.
Even with the roster in place, the preseason will be important for the Dolphins as Kupferberg will assess his squad as it proceeds through each practice. With only four returnees and a crop of new faces, several positions will be up for grabs in the next month.
"Every spot in our starting lineup is open as of today," said Kupferberg. "It's going to be fun seeing who rises to the top as we work our way through the next few weeks."
JU will open its 2007 season against Butler in the Green and Orange Challenge on Friday, Aug. 28, at 4 p.m. in Coral Gables, Fla.