Off to its best start since joining the A-Sun in 1998, the JU volleyball team (13-6, 8-3) embarks on a tough road trip this week beginning with second-place Lipscomb (13-9, 10-2) on Friday at 8 p.m. ET at Allen Arena.
The Dolphins conclude their set against Belmont (14-7, 8-4) on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
The match on Saturday against the Bruins can be seen live on ASun.TV through JUDolphins.com.
Dolphins’ “Dig Pink” does well
The JU volleyball team made an impact in the fight against breast cancer with online donations and a successful “Dig Pink” event last weekend during a 3-0 win over Campbell at Swisher Gymnasium.
The program raised $2,018.05 over the past two months through online donations on JUDolphins.com and players selling pink ribbons on and off campus. All of the proceeds raised will go directly to the Side-Out Foundation and the North Florida Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
During the match against the Camels, the Donna Foundation set up a table in the lobby of the gym with educational information, the team continued to sell pink ribbons for donations during the first set and the Dolphins wore pink uniforms.
Walroth third 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 1,650 in her career and needs 446 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 193 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 1142 more digs in order to surpass the mark.
Walroth, who leads the Atlantic Sun Conference in digs, ranks third in the nation with an average of 6.07 digs per set. Listed below is a look at the top five liberos in the national standings....
Something else to ponder...with Walroth
Junior libero Shelley Walroth ranks third in the nation in digs per set (6.07) but 11 of JU’s 19 matches this season have gone only three sets.
In the remaining eight matches, six 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 four matches (including a career-best 38 against Lipscomb).
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 10-3 with a .248 hitting percentage while averaging 13.3 kills, 12.3 assists, 16.2 digs, and 2.2 blocks per set. Conversely, opponents are hitting .107 with 10.5 kills, 9.4 assists, 14.5 digs and 1.6 blocks per set.
“AA” adds more energy
Freshman setter Ashley August came to JU knowing that the Dolphins had the position covered heading into 2008.
In the 5-1 offense, sophomore setter Hannah Munneke was from fresh off Atlantic Sun Conference all-freshman honors after setting the program single season record with 1,356 assists in 2007.
But the JU coaching staff decided to change to the 6-2 after six matches to take advantage of the Dolphins’ versatility. Among those who have blossomed with the change has been August.
Since joining the starting lineup on Sept. 12, August has racked up five double-doubles (assists, digs) including her first back-to-back double-dip effort against Seattle (20 assists, 11 digs) and Campbell (19 assists, 11 digs).
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 108 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 64 blocks, 1.02 blocks per set and a .338 hitting percentage while also ranking third with 127 kills and 2.02 kills per set.
In the career record books, she needs 58 blocks assists and 118 total blocks to surpass Carrie Windell (220 & 289, 1995-98) for fifth on the all-time list
Lehman moves inside
Sophomore middle blocker Brittany Lehman is another example of the versatile players on JU’s roster in 2008. As a freshman, she played mostly outside to finish the year ranked second on the squad with 2.70 kills per set and fourth with 259 kills.
With the departure of middle blocker Melissa Merchant, Lehman moved inside next to fellow sophomore Abby Gruenbacher and the Dolphins have not missed a beat.
Lehman currently ranks second on the squad with 45 blocks and 0.82 blocks per set. She also ranks third on the team with 15 service aces, including a career-best five against Seattle (10/17).
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 21 service aces and is third with 150 digs and 2.24 digs 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 154 kills, 2.44 kills per set and is second with a .254 hitting percentage and third with 44 blocks.
Senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf started the year off in a blaze as she tallied three-consecutive double-doubles. The next three matches, however, went the complete opposite as she failed to tally double-digit kills and JU went on a three-match slide.
Things look like they are back to normal again for the senior swinger as she led the Dolphins to three consecutive wins at home (Sept. 12-14) and two straight road wins (Sept. 19-20).
For the homestand, she led the squad with 34 kills, a 3.78 kills per set average and 10 blocks while also hitting .377 (34-5-77) with 18 digs, a two digs per set average and three aces.
On the road, Bendorf got back in the double-double groove with 17 kills and 11 digs against ETSU as the Dolphins won in Brooks Gym for the first time in three tries. Against USC Upstate, Bendorf tallied a match-high 17 kills and 10 digs to run her double-double total to five for the year. For the week, she finished with 34 kills, 4.86 kills per set, a .262 hitting percentage (34-13-80), 21 digs, three digs per set and three blocks in two matches.
Although the Dolphins had their six match winning streak snapped by Lipscomb on Sept. 27, Bendorf continued to double-dip as she increased her streak to four and her yearly total to seven. Against the Bruins, she finished with 19 kills and 11 digs before tallying a season-high 22 kills and 11 digs against the Bisons.
Bendorf added two more double-doubles to her total against Seattle and Campbell to make it a team-leading nine on the year.
In her third season, she is setting her sights on the JU career record book by needing 50 kills and 36 attempts to surpass Farley Snow (994 & 2,431, 1989-92) for fifth on the all-time list.
Dolphins in the A-Sun rankings
In the team rankings, JU is first in opponent hitting percentage (.142), second in and assists (11.79 aps) and blocks (2.06 bps) and third in hitting percentage (.226), kills (12.72 kps) and digs (15.54 dps) and fourth in service aces (1.60 aps).
Individually, junior libero Shelley Walroth is first in digs (357) and digs per set (5.95), senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf is first in kills per set (3.93) and second in kills (263), sophomore middle hitter Abby Gruenbacher is tied for first in blocks per set (1.02) and second in hitting percentage (.338), sophomore setter Hannah Munneke ranks seventh in assists per set (6.73), sophomore middle blocker Brittany Lehman is eighth in blocks per set (0.82) and freshman setter Ashley August is ninth in assists per set (5.53).
JU is off to its best record overall record since joining the A-Sun in 1998...the Dolphins are off to their best start since 1997, which was the last JU team to win 19 games until last season...against Campbell, JU tallied its eighth consecutive win against the Camels…senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf led the Dolphins with a match-high 14 kills and 10 digs to notch her team-leading ninth double-double…freshman setter Ashley August, who tallied her first consecutive double dip, finished with 19 assists and 11 digs for her fifth double-double of the year…sophomore outside hitter Aidan Yeager added nine kills while sophomore middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher chipped in with seven kills, a match-high .778 (7-0-9) hitting percentage and three blocks…junior libero Shelley Walroth led the defense with a match-high 16 digs…against Seattle, the Dolphins tied a four-set record with 19 service aces...Walroth notched her fourth 30 plus dig effort of the season with 34…Bendorf finished with a match-high 17 kills and 12 digs to chalk up her eighth double-double of the year…August notched her fourth of the season with 20 assists and 11 digs…Yeager added 11 kills and a match-high .333 (11-4-21) hitting percentage and six blocks while sophomore middle blocker Brittany Lehman tallied a career-best five aces…junior outside hitter Brooke Singleton chipped in with 12 digs, seven kills and four aces.