After dropping the first two sets, the Dolphins (14-17, 5-8 A-Sun) used long early runs to take the third and fourth sets. JU cut a large deficit to one in the fifth set, but the Eagles (17-12, 10-3) quashed the comeback to end the Dolphins’ shot at an A-Sun Tournament berth for the second straight season.
“This is a tough way to end the season,” JU head coach Shaun Kuferberg said. “We dug an early hole, but our kids did a great job of crawling back. In the end, we couldn’t get the result we wanted.
“Overall, I’m proud of the way the team carried themselves in the last three weeks. We didn’t get the results on the scoreboard, but our team battled each and every day.”
Jessica Barnes led the Eagles with 16 kills, while Whitney Barnes chipped in with 15 kills. Kaitlin Holm (13) and Jill Hopper (12) also finished with double-digit kills.
The Dolphins got a pair of 15-kill efforts from seniors Kathryn Kane and Alliya Drzewiecki.
Trailing 2-0 in the third set, the Dolphins raced to an 8-0 lead, capped on consecutive kills by Drzewiecki. A kill from sophomore Alyssa Robertson pushed the lead to 12-9, while sophomore Kendall Courtney made it 19-9 on a kill. The Eagles closed the gap to 22-18 with a 9-2 run, but the Dolphins took the set on a Drzewiecki kill.
In the fourth set, three straight aces by freshman Jena Orner gave the Dolphins a 12-7 advantage. The Eagles used a service error to cut the deficit to three (13-10), but two straight FGCU errors closed an 8-4 JU stretch for a 21-14 lead. After FGCU made it a 22-21 deficit, the Dolphins finally secured the set with an attack error.
In the fifth set, A Barnes kill helped give the Eagles an 11-8 lead. The Dolphins battled back and cut it to 11-10 on a Kane Kill. A Robertson kill cut an FGCU match point to make it 14-12, but Simic followed with a kill to cut JU’s season short.
The Dolphins will compete in their indoor spring schedule before getting ready for its inaugural sand volleyball season in March. JU will be the first host of the A-Sun Sand Volleyball Championship on April 21.