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Shaun Kupferberg enters his second season at the helm of the Dolphin volleyball program after five successful seasons as the head coach at Northwest University.
In his inaugural year, Kupferberg went through growing pains with his new squad but eventually enjoyed the fruits of his labor at the end of the season as JU advanced to the A-Sun Tournament finals for only the second time in program history.
After completing the regular season with a 15-14 overall record and the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament, the Dolphins made quick work of Gardner-Webb in the opening round before advancing to the final with a 3-2 upset win over No. 1 East Tennessee State.
In the final, JU eventually fell to No. 2 Belmont but it was clear that the Dolphins will be a force under their new leadership.
Senior middle hitter Stevenique Richardson was named second team all-conference after leading the squad with 313 kills, a .315 hitting percentage and 18 solo blocks. Freshman libero Michelle Walroth was also named to the all-freshman team after setting a new program record for digs in a season (571), shattering the previous mark of 465 by Terri Hallenbeck in 1987.
Sophomore transfer Sara Bendorf, who followed Kupferberg from Northwest, was enjoying a stellar season before suffering a knee injury in early October. Prior to her injury, Bendorf was leading the squad with an average of 3.42 kills per contest and was named A-Sun [quote]Player of the Week[quote] on Sept. 25.
Junior transfer middle hitter Melissa Merchant also enjoyed a solid year by leading the squad with 141 total blocks, including a conference record tying 12 blocks against ETSU. The 23 total blocks by JU in the match also shattered the previous school record of 20 which was set in 1997 against Lamar. The Dolphins ended the year ranked first in the A-Sun with 312.5 blocks and an average of 2.60 blocks per game.
Kupferberg came to JU with impressive credentials. He had taken a program that had struggled for years at Northwest, turning them into a regional powerhouse - capped by an impressive 28-4 record during his final season.
His five-year record at Northwest was 91-52, with only one losing season (his first) during that time frame. During his tenure, he led Northwest to its highest national ranking ever (10th) and to its first-ever regional championship match.
In looking at his record at Northwest, his teams improved each season, going from 12 wins his first year to 28 his final season.
The 2004 campaign was a breakthrough year at Northwest, going 22-8 and 15-3 in the Cascade Conference to earn [quote]Coach of the Year[quote] honors.
Since coming to JU, Kupferberg[apos]s plan is to install a system this year that keeps JU among the contenders in the Atlantic Sun Conference, while eventually turning the program into a regional power.
But Kupferberg[apos]s system doesn[apos]t end on the court, it also extends to the classroom. Under his guidance, every student-athlete who enters his program has graduated or is on track to graduate.
He got his start in coaching as a student at Miami University, working with the men[apos]s and women[apos]s club programs.
The Chicago native is married to the former Erin Knipe and the couple resides in Jacksonville, Fla.