HARRISONBURG, Va., Oct. 27, 2011 – With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the James Madison volleyball team continues its five-game conference road trip with a visit to UNCW and Georgia State this weekend. JMU’s game at UNCW will be at 7 p.m. in Hanover Hall on Friday night while the game at Georgia State is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday at the GSU Sports Arena.
The Dukes enter the weekend tied for first place in the Colonial Athletic Association with defending champions Delaware. Both teams are 7-2 in conference play, with Northeastern right behind them at 6-2. Towson is in fourth at 6-3 with the six remaining teams two and a half games of each other. This season the CAA Championship returns to a six-team format with the no. 1 seed earning the right to host.
Last weekend, JMU swept a pair of in-state opponents as it went on the road to pick up 3-0 wins over both VCU and William & Mary. Redshirt junior outside hitter Natalie Abel (Washington, Pa./Trinity) earned CAA co-Offensive Player of the Week honors after leading the team with 25 kills and 21 digs. She also added a pair of double-doubles to give her a team-leading 12 this season and was named to the CVU.com National Players of the Week Top Performances list.
Senior Holly Wall (Kaukauna, Wisc./Kaukauna) contributed 18 kills, 16 digs, seven blocks, two assists and two service aces in the wins. Sophomore libero Katie Daorai (Tampa, Fla./Plant) tied Abel for the team lead with 21 digs while junior setter Megan Wiechmann (Sunland, Calif./Village Christian) had 35 assists and 15 digs.
JMU’s current .739 winning percentage would rank as the sixth-best in school history and the fourth-best since moving up to Division I.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
The Seahawks have lost three straight games to drop to 9-16 on the season and 2-6 in the conference action. Those three losses, however, have come to three of the top five teams in the conference standings. They were swept on the road at Towson and Delaware last weekend. This season they are 3-4 in at Hanover Hall.
Offensively, UNCW is led by sophomore Christi Laite with 277 kills on .225 hitting while adding 113 digs and 65 blocks. Sophomore Haley Collins leads the team with 4.05 digs per set while senior Kelsey Bendig paces the offense to a .139 attack percentage with 547 assists. McKenzie Keightley has a team-best 77 blocks, including six solos and Jennifer Mallard’s 32 service aces is a team-high.
Amy Bambenek is in her third season as the head coach for UNCW. She has posted a 29-57 overall record, but is 0-3 against JMU.
The Panthers are returning home for the first time in 26 days after going 2-3 on a five-game conference road trip. Last weekend, GSU lost a pair of 3-1 decisions at Towson and Delaware. It is 10-15 overall and 4-4 in the CAA while posting a 3-4 record at the GSU Sports Arena.
Seniors Muki Kangwa and Vineece Verdun are two of the top offensive weapons in the conference. Kangwa leads the team with 336 kills, adding 248 digs, 30 blocks, 24 aces and 10 assists. Verdun leads the team with 62 blocks while contributing 233 kills on .330 hitting. Junior Jamiee Freeman has a team-best 370 digs and 38 service aces and Kaylee McGrew paces the offense with 664 assists.
Tami Audia is in her second season as the head coach at Georgia State. She is 24-29 in two season, including a 12-10 mark in the CAA.
JMU and UNCW have met 49 times dating back to 1984. The Dukes hold a 39-10 all-time lead in the series, including having won 14 straight against them. Madison is 13-5 in games played in Wilmington.
JMU leads the all-time series with Georgia State 7-4 after the team’s each won once on its home court in 2010. The Dukes have won four of the last five meetings, but are just 2-3 in games played in Atlanta.
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