HARRISONBURG, Va., Oct. 4, 2012 – Off to a 2-0 start in Colonial Athletic Association play, the James Madison volleyball team travels north this weekend to play its first road games of the CAA slate. JMU takes on Hofstra at 7 p.m. on Friday evening at the Hofstra Fitness Center before heading to Northeastern on Sunday for a 1 p.m. match at Soloman Court.
The Dukes are 2-0 in league play and 9-7 overall after downing George Mason 3-1 at home last weekend. They dropped the first set 25-22, but rebounded to win the match by set scores of 29-27, 25-15, 25-12. Senior outside hitter Danielle Erb (Tampa, Fla./Plant) recorded her team-leading eighth double-double of the season with 16 kills and 12 digs. She hit .325 for the match, committing just three errors in 40 attempts, adding two aces, and a season-high four blocks.
Sophomore middle blocker Lizzy Briones (Siloam Springs, Ark./Siloam Springs) contributed a .414 attack percentage with 15 kills against just three errors in 29 attempts. Briones also had two aces and three blocks, including two solo rejections. Freshman outside hitter MacKenzie Kleespies (Lincoln University, Pa./Avon Grove) came off the bench to add seven kills and seven digs in just three sets played.
Erb and junior libero Katie Daorai (Tampa, Fla./Plant) both enter this weekend’s action with a chance to reach career milestones. Erb needs just 11 digs to become the 11th player in program history to accumulate 1,000 digs. When she reaches that mark, she’ll be just the fourth player in school history to amass 1,000 digs and 1,000 kills. She currently ranks seventh in school history in digs with 1,154 and needs four to pass Karla Gessler (1997-00) for sixth.
Daorai is 29 digs shy of reaching the 1,000 digs plateau. She would be the third player to reach 1,000 digs this season, joining Erb and redshirt senior outside hitter Natalie Abel (Washington, Pa./Trinity). Daorai ranks second in school history in digs per set at 3.84, trailing only Jena Pierson (2004-07).
As a team, JMU ranks first in the CAA and 14th in the country in digs per set at 17.73. Six different players are averaging more than two digs per set, paced by Daorai at 4.77. Erb is second with 3.16 per set, followed by Niski (2.89), Kleespies (2.80), senior setter Megan Wiechmann (Sunland, Calif./Village Christian) (2.27) and Abel (2.17).
The NCAA released its first iteration of the 2012 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) this week with JMU checking in at 170. Other CAA contenders include Northeastern at 91, Towson at 116, Hofstra at 159, William & Mary at 162, Delaware at 214, UNCW at 225, Georgia State at 257 and George Mason at 271.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
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 13-9 overall record and a 1-2 mark in CAA play. On Wednesday, they dropped a 3-2 decision at Iona College after splitting a pair of home CAA matches last weekend against UNCW and William & Mary. HU lost to W&M 3-2 before rebounding with a 3-1 win against UNCW.
Offensively, Hofstra is paced by outside hitter Kelsie Wills who is averaging a CAA-best 4.56 kills per set. She is hitting .191 with 383 kills in 84 sets played while adding 184 digs, 48 blocks, 22 aces and 18 assists. Junior outside hitter Nikki Kinnier adds 3.45 kills per set and 62 blocks while outside hitter Emily Burke is averaging 2.39 kills per set.
Catalina Charry is averaging 8.64 assists per set as the team’s primary setter with Kainoa Ocasek adding 2.76 assists per set. Kylee Maneja is averaging 4.15 digs per set from the libero position.
Kristina Hernandez is in her fifth season as the Hofstra head coach. She owns a 68-83 record with the team and is 117-164 in nine seasons as a head coach overall.
The Huskies are on a six-game winning streak entering the weekend and are 14-3 overall. They have not lost at home this season, posting an 8-0 record at Soloman Court, including a 3-0 record in CAA play.
Junior outside hitter Kelly Bacon ranks tops on the team in kills with 213 and 3.55 per set. She is hitting .240 on the season and has added 144 digs and 22 blocks. Sophomore Jillian Briner is hitting .328 with 151 kills, 339 assists, 99 digs, 35 blocks and 14 aces. Two other players are averaging more than two kills per set in middle blocker Nichole Kurz and outside hitter Janelle Tucker. Kurz is averaging 2.22 kills per set with Tucker contributing 2.17 kills per set.
Joining Briner at the setter position is Ina Kamenova. She is leading the team in assists with 6.52 per set. Libero Natalia Skiba leads the CAA in digs with 335, averaging 5.60 per set and is tops on the team in aces with 26.
Head coach Ken Nichols is in his 13th season with Northeastern. He owns a 236-148 record with the team. In 16 years as a head coach overall, Nichols is 289-188.
JMU has won three straight against Hofstra, but trails the all-time series 18-7. Prior to winning three straight, Madison had lost 11 straight against the Pride. The Dukes are just 1-11 all-time in matches played in Hempstead, N.Y., but won the most recent meeting there when they swept the Pride 3-0 in 2010.
The Dukes and Huskies have met 19 times dating back to 1984 with NU holding a slight 10-9 edge in the series. Northeastern has won the last two meetings, each by 3-2 scores. Since head coach Lauren Steinbrecher took over in 2010, JMU is 2-2 against NU by an aggregate score of 10-9 in favor of the Dukes. The series is tied 3-3 when games are played at Northeastern.
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