Volleyball falls to host Wake Forest, 3-1

Sept. 8, 2007

Box Score

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Senior middle blocker Melissa Merchant finished with 12 kills and a match-high seven blocks while freshman outside hitter Aidan Yeager tallied a season-high 15 kills but it was not enough as the JU volleyball team fell to host Wake Forest, 3-1 (26-30, 30-27, 25-30, 17-30), Saturday evening in the final match of the Black and Gold Challenge at Reynolds Gymnasium.

Despite the loss, JU (3-7) finished with its second-highest kill total of the season (57) while the Dolphin defense tied a season-high with 20 blocks. Wake Forest (2-4) caught fire in the match with a .308 (73-21-169) hitting percentage as five Demon Deacons hit above .300 in the contest.

"We had even distribution from our sets, and we got better in spurts, but we gave up too many runs," said JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg. "Our middle and right side players played extremely well and Michelle Walroth was everywhere again defensively. We still need to get more consistent, get to know each other better on the court and build more confidence."

Merchant, who was named to the all-tournament team, also had a team-high .398 (12-1-28) hitting percentage for the Dolphins. Yeager, who led the squad in kills for the third time this season, added a season-high six blocks while freshman middle hitter Abby Gruenbacher chipped in with 10 kills and a .350 (10-3-20) hitting percentage. Freshman outside hitter Brittany Lehman finished with 12 kills and nine digs, sophomore libero Michelle Walroth had 23 digs and freshman setter Hannah Munneke added 48 assists.

"We grew a lot this weekend," Kupferberg said. "Our offense is becoming more balanced now that our middles are getting involved and our defense is getting more aggressive. We are excited about the upcoming weeks and as we venture into conference play."

Jessica Furlong had a match-high 24 kills and 12 digs to lead the Deacons. Natalie Mullikin (13 kills) and Kristen White (10 kills) also finished in double digits to round out the Wake Forest offense. Megan Thornberry chipped in with 22 digs and Dylan Faulkner added 37 assists.

In game one, JU took an early 6-3 lead after a service error by Kelsey Jones but Wake Forest bounced back to take a 10-9 lead on a kill by Mullikin. The Deacons pushed the advantage to 22-15 after an attack error by the Dolphins but JU would cut the margin to 26-24 with an ace by junior outside hitter Sara Bendorf. After a timeout by Wake Forest, the Deacons outscored the Dolphins, 4-2 to win the game.

In the second frame, WF held an early 5-2 advantage before JU bounced back to take a 13-12 lead after an attack error by Furlong. The Dolphins would hold the lead for the majority of the game as they staved off a tie and five one-point advantages until Wake broke through with a 26-25 lead after an attack error by the Dolphins. JU answered back quickly with a 5-1 run to win the game.

In game three, WF never trailed in the game as the Dolphins cut the deficit to one point on five occasions and tied the score twice. In the last tie of the game, 18-18, the Deacons answered with a 6-1 run to take control and cruise to the win.

In the fourth game, the Deacons jumped on the Dolphins early, 6-1, and never looked back as WF hit a match-high .459 (21-4-37) to seal the contest.

The Dolphins will return to the friendly confines of Swisher Gymnasium on Thursday night as they host Bethune-Cookman at 7 p.m.