Despite a loss to first-place Florida Gulf Coast, the JU volleyball team (11-6, 7-3) is tied for third in the conference standings as the Dolphins host two matches this week beginning with Seattle (7-13) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Swisher Gymnasium.
The Dolphins, who are off to their best start since 2000 (11-6), conclude their home set against Campbell (5-14, 3-7) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Both matches can be seen live on ASun.TV through JUDolphins.com.
Dolphins will “Dig Pink” on Saturday
The JU volleyball team will help with the fight against breast cancer by hosting “Dig Pink” against Campbell on Saturday at 3 p.m.
During the match, the Donna Foundation will have a table set up in the lobby of Swisher Gymnasium with educational information, the team will sell pink ribbons for donations during the first set and the Dolphins will wear pink uniforms against the Camels.
Leading up to the match, the Dolphins have been selling pink ribbons for donations and taking online donations at JUDolphins.com. Thus far, the squad has raised nearly $1,500 to directly benefit the Side-Out Foundation and the North Florida Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Walroth fourth in the nation
Junior libero Shelley Walroth broke her own single-season digs record at JU with 672 last year and is now setting her sights on becoming only the 26th player in NCAA history to surpass 2,000 career digs.
After tallying the JU single-season record for digs, Walroth surpassed Julie Heipp - 1,324 (1991-94) on the career list with 25 against Georgia Southern on Sept. 30.
With all the JU records in her possession, her targets are now the A-Sun, NCAA and family bragging rights . Her sister, Julie, tallied 2,095 career digs to set the program record at Evansville (2004-07).
The younger Walroth currently holds the family single-season record but sits at 1,600 in her career and needs 496 to become the undisputed head of the family.
In the A-Sun record book, Kaena Apana of ETSU holds the single-season record with 750 and Liz Kane of Mercer is the career holder with 1,843. Walroth is currently 244 off the pace for the career record.
In the NCAA, the Division I record for career digs is 2,791 by Paula Gentil of Minnesota from 2002-05. Walroth would need 1192 more digs in order to surpass the mark.
Walroth, who leads the Atlantic Sun Conference in digs, ranks fourth in the nation with an average of 5.95 digs per set. Listed below is a look at the top five liberos in the national standings....
A new wrinkle is paying off
In seven years of coaching, JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg has had a great deal of success running a 5-1 formation but a versatile squad in 2008 created an experiment which has payed huge dividends for Kupferberg and the Dolphins.
The standard lineup, which is used by most programs, keeps the setter in through all rotations and would call for an occasional substitution during a serve.
After a 2-1 start to the 2008 season, JU went stagnant with three consecutive losses and the coaching staff decide to try and shake things up.
Kupferberg went to the chemistry lab and conjured up a 6-2 formation for the first time in his career. The new look incorporates two setters but instead of leaving them in throughout the match, he substitutes two players (OH & S) after three rotations. The outside hitter would replace the setter on the front row and the new setter would start with a serve and rotate two more times in the back row. Due to the versatility of having two setters (sophomore Hannah Munneke and freshman Ashley August), Kupferberg has the ability to keep an extra swing in the front row, increase the size of his block and strengthen his defense on the back row.
Through the three game slide (Sept. 5-9), JU hit .155 (97-51-297) with an average of 9.7 kills, nine assists, 11.3 digs and one block per set. Opponents hit .317 (139-46-317), with 13.9 kills, 12.8 assists, 12.6 digs and 1.5 blocks per set.
Since making the lineup change on Sept. 12, JU is 9-2 with a .257 hitting percentage while averaging 13.5 kills, 12.5 assists, 15.9 digs, and 2.2 blocks per set. Conversely, opponents are hitting .110 with 10.5 kills, 9.5 assists, 14.6 digs and 1.4 blocks per set..
Something else to ponder...with Walroth
Junior libero Shelley Walroth ranks fourth in the nation in digs per set (5.95) but 10 of JU’s 17 matches this season have gone only three sets.
Out of the remaining seven matches, five are four sets in length and only two have gone the full five sets. Despite the lack of opportunities, Walroth has notched at least 20 digs in 10 matches and at least 30 digs in three matches (including a career-best 38 against Lipscomb).
A change of heart benefits JU
Junior outside hitter Brooke Singleton is in her first year at JU after transferring from Illinois State, but it is the first time she is playing volleyball since high school.
A two-sport phenom at Roseville High School, Singleton led the volleyball team to a 124-30 record, four straight regional title and currently ranks 13th in the state of Illinois in career kills. But in basketball, she was a three-time all-state selection, Roseville’s all-time leading scorer and a three-time all-area “Player of the Year.”
After high school, Singleton hung up the knee pads and played three years of basketball at Illinois State where she helped lead the Redbirds to the NCAA Tournament in 2008.
But after three years, Singleton decided she wanted an opportunity to return to volleyball and JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg was more than willing to oblige.
Arguably the best passer for the Dolphins, Singleton has started every set, leads the squad with 16 service aces and is second with 135 digs and 2.25 digs per set.
Sophomore middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher is also coming off a freshman campaign which earned her A-Sun all-freshman accolades but must fill the shoes of departed middle Melissa Merchant.
As a freshman, Gruenbacher ranked third in the conference and led all freshmen with 98 total blocks, including a season-high 13 total blocks vs. New Orleans. She also ranked second on the squad in hitting percentage (.263) and went over .300 on 13 occasions.
Gruenbacher is picking up the slack in 2008 by leading the squad with 56 blocks, 0.98 blocks per set and a .329 hitting percentage while also ranking third with 118 kills and 2.07 kills per set.
A shot of Yeager
Sophomore outside hitter Aidan Yeager may not be the feature swing on the outside but she is quietly having a solid season as the first sub off the bench.
In her first year, Yeager was the top freshman hitter and blocker in A-Sun after ranking fourth in the conference with 1.05 blocks per game and 2.76 kills per game. She was also third on squad in hitting percentage (.236) which was tops among all A-Sun freshmen outside hitters.
This year, she ranks second on the squad with 36 blocks, 134 kills, 2.39 kills per set and is tied for second with a .244 hitting percentage.
Dolphins in the A-Sun rankings
In the team rankings, JU is first in opponent hitting percentage (.149) and assists (11.87 aps), second in blocks (2.0 bps) and hitting percentage (.229) and third in kills (12.77 kps) and digs (15.23 dps).
Individually, junior libero Shelley Walroth is first in digs (357) and digs per set (5.95), sophomore middle hitter Abby Gruenbacher is second in hitting percentage (.329), senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf is second in kills per set (3.87) and second in kills (232), sophomore setter Hannah Munneke ranks seventh in assists per set (7.0) and freshman setter Ashley August is ninth in assists per set (5.52).
JU is off to its best record after 17 matches since going 11-6 in 2000...the other Dolphin squad to go 11-6 was in 1997, which was the last JU team to win 19 games until last season...against Stetson, the Dolphins hit .292 (48-15-113) in the contest, including at least .300 in sets one and three...freshman setter Ashley August recorded her second double-double of the year with 26 assists and 12 digs…senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf tallied a match-high 16 kills and tallied a .324 (16-4-37) hitting percentage and six digs...sophomore outside hitter Aidan Yeager chipped in with 12 kills and two blocks…junior libero Shelley Walroth had 12 digs and junior outside hitter Brooke Singleton recorded four kills, a .444 (4-0-9) hitting percentage and seven digs…against Florid Gulf Coast, JU hit only .177 (36-19-96) in the contest and did not have a player record double-digit kills…Bendorf led the Dolphins with eight kills and three blocks…sophomore middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher tallied seven kills, a team-best .545 (7-1-11) hitting percentage and three blocks… Yeager chipped in with seven kills, Walroth had 14 digs and Singleton recorded six kills, a .333 (6-1-15) hitting percentage and six digs.