HARRISONBURG, Va., Sept. 24, 2012 – Winners of seven of their last eight matches, the James Madison volleyball team looks to continue its success as it travels to Lynchburg, Va., for a non-conference match against Liberty on Tuesday. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Vines Center.
JMU comes into the week with an 8-6 overall record and a 1-0 mark in Colonial Athletic Association play after sweeping Georgia State at Sinclair Gymnasium last Saturday. The win was the 50th career victory for Madison head coach Lauren Steinbrecher. Overall, the Dukes’ third-year coach is 50-25 for a .667 winning percentage and is 19-10 in CAA play.
JMU is putting its 14-match winning streak against schools from within the Commonwealth of Virginia on the line. This season the team is 2-0 against in-state foes with wins over Radford and Howard. The last time the team lost to a Virginia opponent was Oct. 15, 2012 against VCU.
In Saturday’s win over Georgia State, freshman outside hitter Meghan Niski (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) paced the JMU attack with a career-high 14 kills on .286 hitting. She added her fifth double-double of the season with 12 digs. Redshirt senior outside hitter Natalie Abel (Washington, Pa./Trinity) also had a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs while junior libero Katie Daorai (Tampa, Fla./Plant) had a match-high 23 digs.
With her seven kills against the Panthers, senior outside hitter Danielle Erb (Tampa, Fla./Plant) moved into eighth place on the school's all-time kills list with 1,121. She passed Larissa Winkler (1998-00, 02) who had 1,115 in 365 sets played. Erb also currently ranks fifth in attack attempts (3,099), fifth in kills per set (2.98), ninth in service aces per set (0.30) and 10th in service aces (113). She needs just 17 more digs to surpass Lindsay Callahan (2007-10) for 10th on the school’s all-time digs list.
Through five weeks of play, JMU ranks first in the conference in digs per set and second in opponent attack percentage. The Dukes are averaging 17.52 digs per set and are limiting foes to just a .167 attack percentage. They rank fourth in the conference in attack percentage (.203) and fifth in aces per set (1.42), assists per set (11.88) and kills per set (12.83).
The Flames come into the week 10-4 overall and 1-0 in the Big South after sweeping Radford on Friday. They have won two straight, including a 3-1 win over Georgetown last Tuesday, and are 2-0 at home this season. LU is 1-0 against the CAA this season, earning a 3-1 win over William & Mary in Lynchburg back on Aug. 28. Over the past five seasons, Liberty is 49-8 (.860) at home. In total, the Flames are 63-23 in home matches under head coach Shane Pinder, including seven straight victories at the Vines Center.
Redshirt freshman Caroline Douglas is the team’s top attack option, averaging 3.12 kills per set on .311 hitting. She has collected 175 kills to go with 37 blocks and 16 digs. Sophomore Ansley Gebben is second on the team with 2.50 kills per set on .204 hitting while senior Loren Thomas is hitting .331 with 124 kills. Thomas has added a team-best 55 blocks. Redshirt junior Kendle Rollins is second on the team with 51 blocks and has added 66 kills and 27 digs.
Sophomore libero Gabrielle Shipe leads the team in digs, averaging 3.73 per set while junior Jade Craycraft leads the team in assists at 8.85 per set. Craycraft has paced the Flames to a .248 hitting percentage as a team while Shipe anchors a defense that is holding opponents to a .234 attack percentage.
Pinder is in his ninth season as the Liberty head coach. He owns a 159-117 record with LU.
JMU and Liberty have met 35 times dating back to 1980. The Dukes lead the all-time series 24-11, including having won four of the last six meetings. The teams last met a year ago in Harrisonburg with Madison earning a 3-1 victory at Sinclair Gymnasium. Prior to that meeting, Liberty had won the previous two matches between the in-state rivals, including a 3-1 win in 2010 in Steinbrecher’s first season as coach. Overall, JMU is 9-5 in matches played in Lynchburg.
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