Volleyball ends regular season with dramatic 3-1 win over FGCU
Sophomore setter Hannah Munneke
Sophomore setter Hannah Munneke
In a regular season finale oozing with Oscar winning drama and a climactic ending worth every penny, the Dolphins sent a shockwave through the Atlantic Sun Conference with the postseason starting next week as the JU volleyball team defeated two-time conference champion Florida Gulf Coast, 3-1 (25-18, 25-16, 21-25, 29-17), Saturday afternoon at Swisher Gymnasium.

JU (19-9, 14-6), which secured the No. 3 seed in the A-Sun Tournament, tallied match highs with a .286 hitting percentage, 17 blocks and seven aces. FGCU (20-8, 18-2), which had its 13-match conference winning streak snapped, took advantage of 17 service errors by the Dolphins but hit only .123 in the match. The only other loss for the Eagles was a 3-1 decision at Belmont on Oct. 3.

The Dolphins came out of the gates firing on all cylinders by building an early 2-0 advantage. The Eagles would bounce back to take set three after the short break but both teams were heading for a clash in set four. Despite a six-point deficit (16-10), six ties and three lead changes, JU finally slayed its early season demons by closing out match-point with a 29-27 win.

“We’ve been waiting for a match like this all year long,” said JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg. “This is the first time everything came together for us at once. We made mistakes, like we always will, but we were able to bounce back and follow through with our game plan. I like the fact that we had to battle in the final set because we have struggled with situations like that all year and now we finally close one out. I’m also glad that Sara Bendorf got to go out like this in her final home match.”

Bendorf led the Dolphin offense with a match-high 17 kills while hitting .472 (17-0-36) and tallying her team-leading 13th double-double with 12 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Aidan Yeager notched 13 kills, a .306 (13-2-36) hitting percentage and eight blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher tallied 10 kills and match highs with a .529 (10-1-17) hitting percentage and nine blocks.

Sophomore setter Hannah Munneke tallied her third double-double of the year with 32 assists and 13 digs. Junior outside hitter Brooke Singleton led the defense with a match-high 17 digs while adding six kills and three blocks. Junior middle blocker Nicki Kent also chipped in with eight blocks and junior libero Shelley Walroth had 13 digs.

Ana Kokanovic led the Eagles with 14 kills and 10 digs while Roberta Santos added 32 assists and 11 digs. Holly Youngquist (15 digs) and Cheyenne Jenks (13 digs) also contributed to the defense while Ashley Yance chipped in with nine kills and four blocks.

In the first set, JU took an early 3-1 lead on a kill by Yeager but FGCU evened things up (3-3) with a kill by Catilin Shawver. The Dolphins answered with a 2-0 run to take a 5-3 advantage but the Eagles evened things up again (5-5). Both teams would go through two more ties until the Dolphins used a 3-0 run, capped by a kill by Bendorf, to take a 10-7 lead. FGCU bounced back with a 4-1 run to tie things again (11-11) and both teams would battle through three more ties. The Dolphins broke the stalemate with a 2-0 run to make it 16-14 but the Eagles would trim the margin with a kill by Santos (16-15). JU would take control of the set by using a 4-1 run, capped by a kill by Yeager, to make it 20-16. The Dolphins increased the margin to 23-17 with an attack error by Jenks and would take a 1-0 lead after kills by Kent and Yeager.

In the second set, JU took an early 4-1 lead on a kill by Yeager and would increase the margin to 7-3 after an attack error by Ashley Yance. The Eagles would cut the margin to 8-7 with a 4-1 run but JU answered with a 6-0 run, capped by a bad set by Santos, to open up a 14-7 advantage. After a service error by the Dolphins (14-8), JU used a 5-0 run to make it a 19-9 lead. The Dolphins made it 21-10 with a kill by Yeager and both teams would trade points the rest of the way as JU took a 2-0 lead in the match.

In the third frame, FGCU took a 6-1 lead on a block by Santos but the Dolphins would trim the deficit to 11-9 with a 3-0 run. The Dolphins evened the score (13-13) on a kill by Singleton and would build a 15-13 lead on consecutive attacking errors by the Eagles. FGCU evened things up again (16-16) with a kill by Audrey Campbell and both teams would go through three more ties. The Eagles would pull away with a 4-0 run, capped by an attack error by the Dolphins, to a make it 24-19 and would cut the deficit to 2-1 after a service error by JU.

In the final stanza, FGCU took an early 3-0 lead after a kill by Jenks and the Eagles would increase the margin to 10-6 with a block by Campbell and Kokanovic. FGCU pushed the lead to 15-9 with a kill by Yance, forcing the Dolphins to take time out. After the break, the Dolphins used a 4-1 run, capped by a block by Gruenbacher, to cut the deficit to 16-13 as the Eagles took a timeout. After the break, FGCU answered with a quick 2-0 run to make it 18-13 but the Dolphins would chip away at the lead and use a 3-0 run to cut the margin to 21-20 with a kill by Singleton. After a service error by JU (22-20), the Dolphins used a 2-0 run to even things up at 22-22 to force an FGCU timeout. After the break, both teams traded points until JU took set point away from the Eagles with a kill by Bendorf (24-24) as the Dolphins took time out. JU held match point after a block by Bendorf and Kent but a block error by the Dolphins evened things again (25-25). After an ace by Yance gave FGCU set point for a second time, Bendorf evened things right back up with another kill (26-26). Both teams traded points again (27-27) but the Dolphins would finally close things out after an attack error by Santos and an ace by Bendorf.

JU will next compete in the A-Sun Tournament in Macon, Ga. beginning on Thursday against No. 6 Campbell at the University Center. All matches can be seen live on ASun.TV while all other tournament information can be found on