After a near month-long break, JMU volleyball made its return in a two-game weekend series against College of Charleston. The Dukes walked away victorious with a series sweep to bring themselves to 5-1, 4-0 CAA.
Starting the first match off fast, both teams went back and forth throughout the first set. Freshman outside hitter Miette Veldman took over the scoreboard for JMU — leading in kills at five — to keep the team on top and earn the first set win. As it was set point, JMU sophomore setter Caroline Dozier set the ball over the net and gave JMU the 25-22 win.
“We talked a lot about serving them out of system,” head coach Lauren Steinbrecher said. “We knew we had to be smart and aggressive offensively.”
JMU had a small lead in the second set, ranging anywhere from one to three points ahead of the Cougars. Midway through the set, the College of Charleston began to take momentum away to prevent any chance of a JMU sweep and won the second set 25-21.
College of Charleston used its blocking as the biggest advantage throughout the game. Ranked second in the nation for blocks, the Cougars optimized every chance to use both single and team blocks, forcing the Dukes to get creative.
In similar fashion to the second set, the Dukes went back and forth, holding a small lead over the Cougars for the majority of the set. With the depth of both teams, the match became a matter of which team could score back to back to keep the set in its favor. JMU took the third set for 2-1, 25-22.
“With this Charleston team, we knew we had to swing higher,” Veldman said. “We just had to swing more than we thought we needed to, and we had to figure it out as the game went on.”
Charleston bounced back in the fourth set to put the game at the tie-breaking fifth set, winning 25-23. The must-win fifth set only requires 15 points to win, and every point counts. With the Dukes down 10-8, the team took a 4-0 scoring run to put themselves into the match-point position as Veldman sent the ball down for the 15-12 win.
“We said the same thing throughout the entire match,” Steinbrecher said. “Details and controlling what you can by serving them out of their system and getting good block set-ups.”
After the five-set matchup against the Cougars on Saturday, the Dukes looked to finish the series with a sweep. In three sets JMU swept the Cougars for the match and series win, 30-29, 25-23 and 25-13.
The first set held the same tempo as before, as both teams had to make difficult saves to stay ahead. JMU had a small lead for the majority of the set, with College of Charleston only behind by one or two points. As both teams reached the 20-point mark, the Cougars overtook the lead for the set point, but the Dukes battled back to tie it before sophomore middle blocker Sophia Davis finished the block for the 30-29 set win.
“After yesterday, we just knew that we had to get better,” Veldman said. “How we played interpreted how the game went.”
As the second set went underway, Veldman led the JMU offense with nine kills to start the Dukes’ second scoring run of the match for the five-point lead. JMU had more control through the Cougars’ defensive set-up. JMU held a comfortable six-point lead by the halfway mark of the second set.
Looking to cut the deficit, College of Charleston tightened its blocking and brought itself closer to the Dukes, locking in a 5-0 scoring run. Now within one point, it was all mental for JMU to keep the lead by the set point as Davis slammed the ball down for her sixth kill of the game and the set point, 25-23.
“We really just had to hit around the blocks,” Davis said. “Figuring out when to use a block and move around their [College of Charleston’s] blocks was a big help.”
With only 25 points separating the Dukes from the full sweep, it was all about momentum. College of Charleston could change the momentum of the match by winning the third set, so the bigger the JMU lead, the better. JMU capitalized on College of Charleston errors early on for the 7-0 scoring run — the third scoring run for JMU in as many sets.
“It’s just something that happens when we put the ball in the pins,” Veldman said. “It’s just awesome having awesome sets when you practice that so much.”
The Dukes set everything into place throughout the third set, taking the biggest lead of the match at 11points as they hit the 20-point marker. Charleston’s defense broke down more and more into the set, struggling to stop JMU as it approached the match point. Davis notched her third set point to secure the sweep for JMU 25-13.
“To come in and get two wins against a really talented team is huge for us,” Steinbrecher said. “There are still things we can improve on as we start to close out our season and get ready for the CAA tournament.”
JMU travels to Elon on Wednesday for a make-up game before returning home for the final weekend series of the season against William & Mary. First serve is at 5 p.m.
Contact Madison Hricik at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more volleyball coverage, follow The Breeze Sports on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.