Volleyball hosts Georgia for 2007 home opener on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Aug. 29, 2007


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After opening the season at the Orange and Green Invitational, the JU volleyball team will host its 2007 home opener against Georgia on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Swisher Gymnasium.

The Dolphins will complete the weekend by hosting The Loop Pizza Grill Invitational.

The tournament will begin with two matches on Friday - Providence vs. Presbyterian at 5 p.m. and JU vs. The Citadel at 7 p.m.

The final day will see four matches on Saturday - Providence vs. The Citadel at 10 a.m., JU vs. Presbyterian at noon, Presbyterian vs. The Citadel at 5 p.m. and JU vs. Providence at 7 p.m.

Georgia will play Presbyterian on Friday at 1 p.m., but it will not be a part of the tournament schedule.

Racking them up
Sophomore libero Michelle Walroth directs the Dolphin defense in 2007 after setting a program record with 571 digs in her first year with the program. Her total shattered the previous mark of 465 by Terri Hallenbeck in 1987.

An A-Sun all-freshman team selection, Walroth also set a program record with 34 digs in a four-game match against North Florida, surpassing the previous mark of 30 by Cheryl Rothwell vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in 1997.

This season, she is off to a good pace after averaging 6.73 digs per game last weekend at the Orange and Green Challenge.

Lehman named all-tournament
Freshman outside hitter Brittany Lehman left a lasting impression on the coaching staff last weekend after being named to the Orange and Green Challenge all-tournament team.

In three matches, she led the squad with 31 kills, 2.82 kills per game and a .242 hitting percentage. She also ranked third on the squad with nine blocks and fourth with 20 digs.

She currently has a two match double- double streak under her belt as well.

Shaking the injury bug
The Dolphins were pleased to see junior outside hitter Sara Bendorf and senior middle hitter Melissa Merchant on the floor over the weekend.

Bendorf, who was recovering from knee surgery, has made leaps and bounds in her recovery time during the fall. She missed the final 12 matches of the 2006 season with the knee injury.

Merchant was hindered by an abdominal strain during fall camp but played in every match over the weekend.

Junior outside hitter Kesley Clark (ankle) is the only Dolphin who has yet to play this season due to inury.

Head coach Shaun Kupferberg
Shaun Kupferberg enters his second season at the helm of the Dolphin volleyball program after five successful seasons as the head coach at Northwest University.

In his inaugural year at JU, Kupferberg went through growing pains with his new squad but eventually enjoyed the fruits of his labor at the end of the season as JU advanced to the A-Sun Tournament Finals for only the second time in program history.

His five-year record at Northwest was 91- 52, with only one losing season (his first) during that time frame. During his tenure, he led Northwest to its highest national ranking ever (10th) and to its first-ever regional championship match.

New face on the sidelines
Along with seven new members of the squad, Kelly Hopkins will join the Dolphin coaching staff but is more familiar with her surrounding than one thinks. Most recently a volunteer assistant coach with Sudden Impact Volleyball Club in Redmond, Wash., Hopkins was the head assistant under Shaun Kupferberg for three season when he was the head coach at Northwest University.

In her time with the Eagles, the squad went a combined 65-24 (.730) and also finished 41-13 (.759) in Cascasde Conference play. In her final season with the program, the Eagles set a program record by going 28-4, including a 16-2 conference mark, while also earning the program's highest national ranking (10th) and its first regional championship appearance.

In her collegiate career, Hopkins played four years at Northwest as a defensive specialist from 1999-2002. In her final two seasons, she played under Kupferberg before later joining his staff.

Youth movement
No statement will ring more true for a program than the Dolphins in 2007. Joining five returners, one of which with more than one season with the program, will be seven new players (two transfers, five freshmen).

The new faces are 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.).

Due to a young squad, several players will get the opportunity to play in non-conference action as the coaching staff determines who will see time when the conference season rolls around.

Dolphins selected third in A-Sun Poll
After reaching the final match of the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship for only the second time in program history, the Dolphins were selected to finish third in the 2007 A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll.

Belmont, which won the 2006 championship, was tabbed the preseason favorite with 132 points (six first place points) while East Tennessee State (one first-place vote) and JU (one first-place vote) rounded out the top three. Florida Gulf Coast (three first-place votes), North Florida, Lipscomb (first-place vote), Campbell, Mercer, Gardner-Webb, Stetson, Kennesaw State and USC Upstate rounded out the rest of the field, respectfully.