HARRISONBURG, Va., Nov. 8, 2012 – The James Madison volleyball team closes out its regular season this weekend at home as it welcomes Northeastern and Hofstra to Sinclair Gymnasium for a pair of Colonial Athletic Association matches. JMU hosts Northeastern at 7 p.m. on Friday night before finishing up its schedule on Saturday against Hofstra, also at 7 p.m.
With just one weekend remaining on the CAA schedule, there is still a lot left to determine heading into next weekend’s conference tournament. Towson has clinched the regular season title and earned the No. 1 seed and the right to host the five-match tournament. Northeastern, Delaware and William & Mary have all clinched berths while JMU, Hofstra, UNCW and George Mason are still in the running for the final two spots.
The Dukes currently sit in sixth place and control their own destiny. They hold a one-match lead over UNCW and Mason and clinch a berth with two wins this weekend or with a win and a loss by UNCW. Tiebreaker scenarios are dependent on this weekend’s results.
Madison is also celebrating Senior Day prior to Saturday’s match against Hofstra. Three Dukes, outside hitters Natalie Abel (Washington, Pa./Trinity) and Danielle Erb (Tampa, Fla./Plant) and setter Megan Wiechmann (Sunland, Calif./Village Christian), will be honored prior to playing their final match in Sinclair Gymnasium.
Abel, a redshirt-senior, is a two-time All-CAA selection, including a First Team honor in 2011. She was also Third Team All-CAA in 2010 and a Preseason All-CAA selection this season. She ranks fourth in school history in digs with 1,139. In 383 sets played, Abel has collected 805 kills, 83 blocks, 85 assists and 60 aces.
Erb is a three-time All-CAA selection, including Second Team accolades in 2010. She has played 420 career sets while compiling 1,268 kills, 1,086 digs, 158 blocks, 123 aces and 63 assists. She ranks fifth in school history in kills, sixth in digs, eighth in aces and ninth in sets played. She is one of only four players in school history to surpass 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs, reaching both plateaus earlier this season.
Wiechmann has appeared in 395 sets in her career, starting 67 of the 107 matches she’s appeared in. The Sunland, Calif., native ranks fifth in school history in assists with 2,772 and seventh in assists per set at 7.02. She’s added 593 digs, 102 kills, 80 blocks and 40 aces in her career.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
The Huskies are on a two-match winning streak entering the weekend and are 19-5 overall. They are 3-4 in true road games this season, but hold an 8-5 mark away from home.
Junior outside hitter Kelly Bacon ranks tops on the team in kills with 299 and 3.52 per set. She is hitting .238 on the season and has added 223 digs and 34 blocks. Sophomore Jillian Briner is hitting .287 with 199 kills, 484 assists, 154 digs, 50 blocks and 27 aces. Two other players are averaging more than two kills per set in middle blocker Nichole Kurz and outside hitter Nichole Bishop. Kurz is averaging 2.04 kills per set with Bishop contributing 2.16 kills per set.
Joining Briner at the setter position is Ina Kamenova. She leads the team in assists with 6.27 per set. Libero Natalia Skiba leads the CAA in digs with 464, averaging 5.46 per set and is tops on the team in aces with 29.
Head coach Ken Nichols is in his 13th season with Northeastern. He owns a 241-150 record with the team. In 16 years as a head coach, Nichols is 294-190 overall.
The Pride won its first eight matches of the season and nine of its first 11 to get off to a hot start. They currently own a 16-13 overall record and a 4-6 mark in CAA play. They have won two straight games against conference foes to be in position to qualify for the CAA Championship.
Offensively, Hofstra is paced by outside hitter Kelsie Wills who is averaging a CAA-best 4.39 kills per set. She is hitting .175 with 479 kills in 109 sets played while adding 231 digs, 59 blocks, 30 aces and 21 assists. Junior outside hitter Nikki Kinnier adds 3.43 kills per set and 78 blocks while outside hitter Emily Burke is averaging 2.43 kills per set.
Catalina Charry is averaging 8.52 assists per set as the team’s primary setter with Kainoa Ocasek adding 2.83 assists per set. Kylee Maneja is averaging 4.17 digs per set from the libero position.
Kristina Hernandez is in her fifth season as the Hofstra head coach. She owns a 71-87 record with the team and is 120-168 in nine seasons as a head coach overall.
The Dukes and Huskies have met 20 times dating back to 1984 with NU holding a slight 11-9 edge in the series. Northeastern has won the last three meetings, including a 3-2 win in Boston earlier this season. Since head coach Lauren Steinbrecher took over in 2010, JMU is 2-3 against NU by an aggregate score of 12-10 in favor of the Huskies. The series is tied 3-3 when games are played at JMU.
JMU had won three straight against Hofstra, but dropped a 3-1 decision in Hempstead earlier this season. The Dukes trail the all-time series 19-7. Prior to winning three straight, Madison had lost 11 straight against the Pride. JMU has won two straight against Hofstra at home, but is just 5-6 all-time in matches played in Harrisonburg.
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