Volleyball falls to #8 Florida, 3-0, in first round of CUCU Invitational
Sophomore middle blocker Brittany Lehman
Sophomore middle blocker Brittany Lehman
The JU volleyball team got a taste of going against a national power in a hostile environment as the Dolphins fell to host No. 8 Florida, 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-14), Friday evening in the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational tournament in front of 2,624 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

JU (2-2) had its two match winning streak snapped after hitting only .137 (24-14-73) and finishing with 17 errors (10 service, 7 receive) in the match .UF (3-0), which had a match-high 19 errors in the match (15 service, three receive, one ball handling) made up for the difference by hitting .521 (44-7-71) from the field.

“We played well in our first two sets but we lost our composure in the third,” said JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg. “Defensively, we didn’t execute efficiently tonight but that is to be expected when you are playing an elite team. That’s something we are going to have to work on for tomorrow when we face a perennial NCAA team in Florida A&M.”

Sophomore outside hitter Aidan Yeager finished with a team-high six kills and a .333 (6-2-12) hitting percentage. Sophomore middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher added four kills but finished with a team-high .444 (4-0-9) hitting percentage. Sophomore middle hitter Brittany Lehman also added five kills, a team-high two aces and a .308 (5-1-13) hitting percentage.

“We saw some real growth out of our middle hitters tonight,” Kupferberg said. “All three were hitting over .400 before we got into the third set so we are really encouraged by our middles on offense as we head into tomorrow.”

Bendorf also finished with a team-high six kills and three digs to have her double-double streak snapped at three. Sophomore setter Hannah Munneke finished with 18 assists and five digs while junior libero Shelley Walroth led the defense with six digs.

Kristina Johnson finished with a match-high nine kills and a .818 (9-0-11) hitting percentage. Kelly Murphy also tallied nine kills and hit .727 (9-1-11) from the floor to go along with 13 assists. Elyse Cusack led the defense with 15 digs and added a match-high three aces.

In the first set, JU took 3-1 lead after an ace by junior outside hitter Brooke Singleton but UF answered with a 3-0 to take a 4-3 advantage after a kill by Colleen Ward. Both teams battled through three ties until the Gators used a 4-0 run, capped by a block assist by Johnson and Kristy Jaeckel, to open a 10-6 lead. UF made it 15-10 on a service error by the Dolphins before the Gators used a 3-0 run to push the advantage to 18-11 with a kill by Jaeckel. JU cut the margin to 23-17 after an attack error by Cassandra Anderson but the Gators got a pair of kills by Murphy to take a 1-0 lead in the match.

In the second set, both teams went through two ties before UF used a 5-0 run to open a 7-2 lead. The Dolphins cut the deficit to 9-7 with a kill by Lehman before JU made it an 11-10 deficit on a kill by Bendorf. Both teams exchanged points until UF used a 7-1 run, capped by a kill by Callie Rivers to push the lead to 19-13. The Dolphins would cut the deficit to 22-18 on a kill by Yeager but the Gators ended the set with a 3-0 run to take a 2-0 lead in the match.

In the final frame, UF opened a 6-1 lead on an attack error by the Dolphins before JU rattled off two consecutive points to cut the margin to 6-3 on an ace by Lehman. The Gators answered with a 4-1 run to push the lead to 10-4 after a service error by JU. The Gators increased the margin to 18-8 after a block assist by Johnson and Ward and would never look back as the Dolphins could not cut the deficit below nine points for the remainder of the set.

JU will play its final match in the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational Tournament on Saturday against Florida A&M at 3 p.m.