HARRISONBURG, Va., Oct. 25, 2012 – With just three weekends left in the conference schedule, the James Madison volleyball team continues its four-game Colonial Athletic Association road trip this weekend with games at William & Mary and UNCW. JMU takes on W&M at 7 p.m. in Kaplan Arena on Friday before traveling down to UNCW for a 1 p.m. match at Hanover Hall on Sunday.
Live stats and live video are available for both matches and are supplied by TribeAthletics.com and UNCWSports.com.
JMU has been off since traveling to Atlanta, Ga., last Friday for a CAA tilt against Georgia State. The Dukes won that match 3-0 and were led by redshirt senior outside hitter Natalie Abel (Washington, Pa./Trinity). Abel had a double-double with a match-high 14 kills and 14 digs. Also contributing for the Dukes were freshmen Meghan Niski (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) and MacKenzie Kleespies (Lincoln University, Pa./Avon Grove). Niski also had a double-double in the match with 13 kills on .257 hitting and 11 digs while Kleespies had 12 kills on .370 hitting to go with seven digs and a block.
For her efforts against the Panthers last Friday and in last Tuesday’s match against Virginia, Kleespies was named the CAA Rookie of the Week. In the five matches since moving into the middle for Madison, the rookie from Pennsylvania has averaged 2.00 kills, 2.32 digs and 0.95 blocks per set. She leads the team with 18 blocks over that span and is hitting .214.
There is still much to be determined in the race for CAA seeding, as each team still has at least four matches left to play. The Dukes can clinch a berth in the conference tournament with wins over both UNCW and William & Mary in addition to a loss by Hofstra at home to Georgia State or losses by George Mason at W&M and UNCW.
Towson currently holds a two-game lead over Northeastern and Delaware for the right to host the conference tournament. The Tigers currently hold the tiebreaker over both teams due to head-to-head victories, but they face the Blue Hens this weekend in an attempt to solidify their position.
Northeastern and Delaware are tied for second with JMU a game and a half back of them. The winner of the second seed receives a bye through the quarterfinals of the CAA Championship.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
William & Mary
The Tribe has dropped five of its last six matches, including going 1-4 in CAA play, to drop to 11-10 on the season overall and 3-4 in conference play. It is 5-4 at home this season, but has lost three straight in Williamsburg with all of those losses coming in league play.
Outside hitter Paulette Grand Pre leads the team in kills, averaging 2.39 per set and totaling 170. She adds 2.51 digs per set and 24 blocks and 14 service aces. Outside hitter Dessi Koleva adds 2.31 kills per set on .220 hitting while collecting 2.48 digs per set. Middle Blocker Shaylin O’Connell leads the team in blocks with 71.
Setter Molly Krull leads the team to a .205 attack percentage while averaging 6.01 assists per set. She also leads the team in service aces with 21. Carolina Rivas shares the setting duties and averages 5.00 per set. Devin Andrews-Lyssy serves as the team’s libero and averages 3.08 digs per set.
Melissa Aldrich Shelton is in her fifth season as the head coach of her alma mater. She owns a 67-63 record with William & Mary and a 302-242 in 18 seasons overall as a head coach.
The Seahawks have won two straight to improve to 9-14 overall and 1-6 in CAA play. They won their most recent home match to improve to 5-4 at home, but had dropped three straight at Hanover Hall prior to that victory.
Outside hitter Christi Laite is the team’s primary offensive weapon, averaging 2.82 kills per set on .180 hitting. She has added 121 digs, 48 blocks, 34 assists and 17 service aces in 83 sets played this year. Outside hitter Morgan Kline is hitting .179 and averaging 2.76 kills per set while leading the team with 27 service aces. Middle blocker McKenzie Keightley is the team’s primary blocker, leading the team with 96 rejections and averaging 1.19 per set.
Natalie Lahaie and Victoria Phillips share the setting duties for UNCW. Lahaie is averaging 7.22 assists per set while Phillips contributes 6.10 helpers per set. The duo has combined to pace the Seahawks to a .181 attack percentage. Haley Collins is the team’s libero and she is averaging 3.62 digs per set.
Amy Bambenek is the head coach at UNCW. She is in her fourth season with the club and has a 41-74 record with the team.
JMU and William & Mary have played each other 74 times dating back to 1977. The Tribe leads the all-time series 40-34, but Madison has won the last three as well as five of the last eight. Last season, JMU swept the season series with W&M, winning 3-0 at home in September before visiting Williamsburg in October and earning a 3-0 victory.
The Dukes have won 39 of their 50 meetings with the Seahawks, including 14 of the last 15. UNCW snapped a 14-match losing streak to JMU last season with a 3-1 win over the Dukes in Wilmington.
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