HARRISONBURG, Va., Sept. 13, 2012 -- Having won four consecutive games to get back to a .500 winning percentage, the James Madison volleyball team heads to Tampa, Fla., this weekend to play in the USF Volleyball Invitational. The Dukes play Bethune-Cookman (1 p.m.) and USF (6 p.m.) on Friday before closing the two-day event on Saturday against FIU (5 p.m.).
JMU dominated Radford 3-0 on Tuesday to run its record to 5-5 this season. Senior outside hitter Danielle Erb (Tampa, Fla./Plant) and sophomore middle blocker Lizzy Briones (Siloam Springs, Ark./Siloam Springs) combined for 25 kills and just two errors to lead the team to victory.
Briones had a team-high 13 kills on .522 hitting while Erb collected a double-double with 12 kills and a season-high 16 digs. This season, Briones is hitting a team-best .283, collecting 99 kills against just 36 errors in 223 attempts. Erb leads the team in kills with 109 and kills per set a 3.21. She is hitting .231 and is averaging 2.79 digs per set.
Junior libero Katie Daorai (Tampa, Fla./Plant) leads the team with 123 digs and is averaging a career-high 4.10 digs per set. She has also improved her serving getting 88% of her serves in play with 12 service aces. She is just two aces shy of her career-high in nine sets played.
Freshman outside hitter Meghan Niski (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) led all players with a career-high 18 digs in the match against the Highlanders. This season, Niski has played in 34 sets and is averaging 2.44 kills per set and 3.06 digs per set.
Coming into this week, JMU ranked 73rd in the country in digs per set at 15.90. Daorai was ranked 182nd in the nation. The Dukes also ranked 119th in aces, 172nd in assists, 158th in kills and 165th in hitting percentage.
Daorai is ranked 91st in the country in aces (0.41 per set) while senior setter Megan Wiechmann (Sunland, Calif./Village Christian) checked in at 117th in the nation in assists at 9.68 per set.
In an expanded role this season, Wiechmann has collected 332 assists, 78 digs, 18 kills, 14 blocks and three aces. She has paced the team to a .199 hitting percentage while moving into sixth place on the school’s career leaderboard for assists with 2,324.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
The Wildcats come into the weekend with a 0-13 record after dropping a midweek game to North Florida on Tuesday. Last weekend, they lost four matches at the Big Daddy’s Invitational hosted by McNeese St. Bethune-Cookman fell to Hampton, McNeese St., Baylor and Arkansas in the two-day tournament.
Senior Krysta Gardner is the team’s top producer, averaging a team-best in both kills per set (3.21) and digs per set (2.19). She is hitting .112 with 135 kills in 436 opportunities, adding 17 blocks, eight aces and three assists. Junior Aria Cormier has 19 kills and a team-best 33 blocks in 40 sets played. Sophomores Aubrianna Curtis and Monica Lowe share the setting duties and are averaging 4.55 and 2.66 assists per set, respectively. Freshman Pierre Delicia is second on the team in both kills (93) and blocks (28).
Issac Raphael is in his second season as the head coach at Bethune-Cookman. He led them to a 13-19 record in 2011 and boasts 13-32 career record with the Wildcats.
The Bulls come into their home tournament having won two of their last three to improve to 4-5 on the season. Last weekend, they picked up wins over Evansville and Saint Louis while falling to Southeast Missouri State at the Saint Louis Tournament.
Sophomore Valerie El Houssine is the team’s top offensive threat with 120 kills in 35 sets played. She is averaging 3.43 kills per set on .242 hitting while adding 112 digs, 11 blocks, 10 aces and seven assists. Her 112 digs is second on the team to only Claudia Cabrera. Cabrera is averaging 4.66 digs per set and has added six service aces and 27 assists from the libero position. Three players have collected between 21 and 36 blocks, led by junior Andrea Rodriguez Gomez. Gomez is averaging 1.08 blocks per set.
Courtney Draper is in her first season as the USF head coach. She is 4-5 with the Bulls and owns a 164-123 career record in 10 seasons as a head coach.
The Panthers traveled to Fort Collins, Colo., last weekend to play in the Rams Volleyball Classic hosted by Colorado State. They went 0-3 in the tournament to fall to 2-7 on season.
Senior Marija Prsa is the team’s offensive leader with 107 kills on .157 hitting. She has added 91 digs, 13 blocks, six assists and four aces. Junior Kimberly Smith leads the team in blocks with 34, including five solo rejections. She is third on the team in kills with 73, averaging 2.35 per set. Senior Ryanne Milligan is averaging 2.48 digs per set as the team’s libero while redshirt sophomore Jessica Egan and freshman Ashlee Hodgskin share the setting duties. Hodgskin leads the team in assists at 8.43 per set.
Trevor Theroulde is in his first season as a head coach with FIU. He took over the reins after four seasons as the team’s top assistant coach.
This is the third meeting between the JMU and South Florida, dating back to 1988. The Bulls lead the all-time series 3-0, including a 3-0 sweep over JMU in 2008. The Dukes have never faced Bethune-Cookman or FIU.