Volleyball picked fourth in A-Sun preseason coaches poll
Junior libero Shelley Walroth (left) and senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf (right).
Junior libero Shelley Walroth (left) and senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf (right).
Despite reaching the final match of the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship for the second consecutive season, the JU volleyball team will have to settle for a fourth place selection in the 2008 A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll.

Florida Gulf Coast, which won the regular season title last season, was tabbed the preseason favorite with 115 points (nine first-place votes) while reining tournament champion Lipscomb and Belmont (one first-place vote) rounded out the top three. JU, ETSU (one first-place vote), Mercer, UNF, Stetson, Campbell, USC Upstate and Kennesaw State rounded out the rest of the field, respectfully.

“Pre-season polls are always fun to see, but rarely mean anything,” said JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg. “If you look at the pre-season polls from the last two years, we were ranked low and ended up in the conference championship game. All that really matters is how well you’re playing the second weekend in November. I think the top half of the conference is going to be very competitive and it’s going to be a fun year to be playing or coaching in the A-Sun.”

Despite the fourth-place finish, JU earned two selections to the preseason all-conference team - senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf (one of two unanimous selections) and junior libero Shelley Walroth.

Bendorf, who earned second team all-conference honors last season, led the Dolphin offense for the second consecutive year and ranked ninth in A-Sun with 3.38 kills per game and was second on the squad with 259 digs and 3.01 digs per game. One of only two A-Sun players to average over three kills & digs per game, Bendorf led the squad with 17 double-digit kills, including season-high 22 three times.

“Sara has always been a solid leader and contributor on our team,” Kupferberg said. “Hopefully this will be the year she stays injury free and can really show what she is capable of in a full season.”

Walroth, who set a JU four-game match record with 35 digs against ETSU last season, broke her own single-season dig record with 672 digs in her sophomore campaign. She currently ranks second in the JU career digs list with 1,243 and is only 82 digs shy of surpassing Julie Heipp (1,324 – 1991-94) on the all-time list.

“Shelley’s natural instincts are amazing and she keeps so many balls in play that it changes games,” Kupferberg said. “Very few players can have that effect on a match, but she can, and I look forward to watching her develop for another season.”

Prior to opening the regular season, the Dolphins will play an Alumni Game at newly renovated Swisher Gymnasium on Aug. 23 at 5 p.m.