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During the 2019 season, the JMU volleyball team saw some of the strongest underclassmen talent since 2016. With a strong focus on offensive power, the Dukes were able to mold their next set of veteran players. Now with new freshmen joining the roster for a new season, the team will have the strongest underclassmen lineup in the CAA.

Following the 2019 season for JMU volleyball, the Dukes signed four new incoming freshmen to join the team in 2020. JMU finished second in the CAA tournament after Towson took the crown. The season has yet to be determined for this year, but, it’s likely that these two teams will take the top two spots once again. The division rivals both have similar lineups, and following last year’s championship, the Dukes will look to reclaim their title.

Super sophomores

Sophomore middle hitter Sophia Davis had a breakout freshman season with 257 kills and 24 digs. Davis was named VaSID Player of the Year, CAA First Team and CAA All-Rookie Team. She was named a threat for the Dukes early on in the season, with her first collegiate start on Aug. 30, and she’s played nearly every game since.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native played alongside recently graduated outside hitter Briley Brind’Amour and setter Sarah Martin as well as sophomore outside hitter Danielle Nathan.

Nathan’s also proven to be a force for JMU. She made her collegiate debut the same day as Davis against Washington State. Nathan ended up finishing her season with 215 kills and 42 digs. Playing alongside Davis, the two have been able to create on-court chemistry that’ll continue to grow in this coming season.

Sophomore setter Caroline Dozier brought strong defensive statistics in her freshman campaign. With 122 digs and 83 assists on her season, Dozier proved that she can continue to grow as a starting setter for the team.

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cameryn Jones also showed early promise in her first season with 63 kills and 21 digs.

The Dukes are introducing three hitters, a defensive libero and a setter. The hitters are Miëtte Veldman, Elizabeth Helmich and Savannah Cockrill. All three have impressive experience prior to their commitment to JMU.

Statistically, the Dukes have a strong and experienced lineup that rivals any CAA team. In the event the Dukes make a championship run once again, the combination of skills in the freshman and sophomore class together will bring a new strength that hasn’t been seen in many seasons.

New faces

Reannan Bihlmeier will be the newest libero, with liberos Savannah Marshall and Zara White as her newest teammates to work with. Setter Hannah Roberts will grow alongside Dozier and junior Rebecca Frye after previous starting setter Sarah Martin graduated in May.

Veldman comes to JMU with immense offensive and defensive skills. Notching 1,000 kills in her junior season and another 1,000 digs in her senior season, she was also named the Blue Ridge District Player of the Year all four years of high school. Her quick reflexive abilities show promise for her career as a Duke, and she can easily be paired with Dozier and Nathan for a strong and fast offensive line.

Arriving opposite to Veldman is Helmich, who comes with her own set of accomplishments as well. Claiming three different accolades in 2019 — Star Tribune Metro First Team, 3A State Tournament Team and Ms. Volleyball Finalist — Helmich will have a chance to gain even more experience in her collegiate years.

Finally, middle hitter Savannah Cockrill joins the remaining offensive lineup for the Dukes. Cockrill comes to the team holding multiple All-Region honors, including a 2019 All-Metro Area Honorable Mention. She’s expected to bring enthusiasm and excitement to the team ahead of the impending season.

New lineups are likely to help balance the freshman talent with the experience of the remaining roster. Familiar faces like Marshall, Davis and Nathan are likely to return as consistent starters once again. The integration of freshmen will be determined throughout the season. However, it’s possible that the Dukes will have early debuts to see what new lineups will work.

The team has been actively introducing JMU Nation to these new freshmen and have been building team chemistry for months now as well. This is likely to pay off come the start of the season, with built trust between teammates and coaches helping to sort out any differences.

With the team on pause for any activities following multiple COVID-19 exposures and positives, the Dukes are preparing individually until further notice. However, there’s no counting out the perseverance of the team and what it can do.

Contact Madison Hricik at hricikmn@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.