Volleyball downs Georgia Southern, 3-1, for Holiday Inn Tourney title
Junioe libero Shelley Walroth
Junioe libero Shelley Walroth
Senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf ended the opening weekend of the 2008 season with her third straight double-double to lead the JU volleyball team to a 3-1 (25-13, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23) win over host Georgia Southern, Saturday afternoon in the final match of the Holliday Inn Invitational at Hanner Fieldhouse.

JU (2-1), which secured the tournament title through a tiebreaker, hit a blistering .516 (17-1-31) in the first set and finished over .240 in the next two frames. GSU (2- 1) won the third set but had no answer for the Dolphins' hot offense. Bendorf, junior libero Shelley Walroth and sophomore setter Hannah Munneke were each selected to the all-tournament team and JU is off to its best start to a season since going 4-1 in 2000.

"Our first two sets tonight were the best we have played since I've been here," said JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg. "We struggled after the break but we were able to squeak one out in the fourth set. We are looking good right now and we made a lot of progress over the weekend."

Bendorf finished with a match-high 18 kills and 10 digs while also tallying two blocks and a .292 (18-4- 48) hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Aidan Yeager also added 13 kills, a match-high five blocks and a .286 (13-5-28) hitting percentage. Sophomore middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher tallied 10 kills, four blocks and a team-high .320 (10-2-25) hitting percentage.

Sophomore setter Hannah Munneke finished with a match-high 54 assists and added seven digs and two blocks while junior libero Shelley Walroth led the defense with a match-high 25 digs. Junior outside hitter Brooke Singleton (15 digs) and sophomore outside hitter Brittany Lehman (match-high five blocks) also contributed to the Dolphin defense.

"Shelley played really well as always," Kupferberg said. "Sara picked it up over the weekend and Hannah did a great job of distributing the ball. We had a lot of players who played well for us."

Bethany Sanford led the Eagles with 16 kills and 13 digs while Michelle Uzoh tallied 12 kills, a match- best .357 (12-2-28) hitting percentage and four blocks. Cristin Haines (20 digs) and Hayli Ketner (14 digs) led the defense while Mae Chabra (29 assists) paced the offense.

In the first set, JU took at 6-3 lead after a block assist by Gruenbacher and Munneke and then increased the advantage to 11-7 with a kill by Yeager. From there, the Dolphins caught fire offensively with a 10-2 run to increase the lead to 21-9. JU would cruise the rest of the way to take a 1-0 advantage in the match.

In the second set, the Dolphins jumped out to a 5-1 lead after an attack error by Parker Small and increased the margin to 10-5 with a kill by Gruenbacher. GSU cut the deficit to 13-11 with a kill by Uzoh but the Dolphins answered with a 5-1 run, capped by a Bethany Sanford attack error, to push the advantage to 17-12. JU made it 22-16 with a kill by Lehman and took a 2-0 advantage in the match by ending the set with kill by Yeager.

In the third frame, the Dolphins took an early 6-1 lead after a kill by Yeager but GSU slowly chipped away to tie the score, 11-11, with a kill by Hannah Nelson. Both teams would go through another tie, 13-13, before the Eagles used a 4-0 run to lead 17-13. JU would cut the deficit to 18-16 with a kill by Yeager but GSU answered with a 5-1 run to take a 22-17 advantage. The Dolphins pulled to within two, 23-21, after a service error by Haines but the Eagles got kills by Sanford and Small to make it a 2-1 match.

In the final frame, both teams battled through seven ties until the Eagles used a 6-1 run to take a 13-9 advantage. GSU increased the lead to 16-10 with an ace by Sanford but JU cut the deficit to 17-16 with an ace by Lehman. The Eagles answered quickly with a 4-0 run to open a 21-16 lead but JU answered right back with a 5-0 run to even things up, 21-21, with a kill by Bendorf. Both teams went through two more ties until the Dolphins secured the match with kills by freshman outside hitter Kathryn Kane and Bendorf to end the set.

JU will return to action next weekend at the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational Tournament on Friday, Sept. 5, against host No. 5 Florida at 7 p.m.