M'Kaela White

M'Kaela White jumps up to spike the ball.

JMU volleyball (16-3, 8-0 CAA) beat UNCW in three sets Sunday making quick work of the No. 2 ranked team in the CAA to move to 8-0 in conference play at the halfway point of its CAA schedule.

The 25-19, 25-20, 25-13 final score doesn’t reflect how competitive the match was. While the Seahawks (10-6, 3-3 CAA) were shut out, UNCW started the match strong and held the lead for extended periods during the first two sets. The Dukes were forced to fight back from several deficits for the victory but that only made it more satisfying for the team.

“I feel like we never really start off perfectly,” junior middle blocker M’Kaela White said. “It kind of takes us awhile, but we work really well under pressure so maybe we dig ourselves in a hole to fight harder.”

Despite finding themselves in a hole early – at one point, the team was down 8-4 in the first set – the Dukes burst out of it. After tying the score at 11, the team imposed its will and took the first set by six points.

“I feel really good [about the win this weekend],” White said. “We trained really hard, and we knew Charleston and UNCW were going to be our toughest conference competition this season. It really paid off that we saw good output from training so hard this whole week.”

JMU’s players dominated the stat sheet, and the team led in nearly every statistical category. Junior outside hitter Briley Brind’Amour and senior outside hitter Bryn Recker recorded nine kills each, the highest of any players on the court. Junior libero/defensive specialist Sarah Driscoll led all players with 14 digs while Recker and freshman defensive specialist Savannah Marshall were second with 11 each.

“The coaches have told me to be ready for a couple games,” Marshall, the only freshman to touch the court for the Dukes, said. “I was so excited to finally [play]. You put in the work every day in practice and then the weight room and stuff, so to finally be able to help out the team was just really rewarding.”

The Dukes foiled the Seahawks by focusing their attention on diffusing offensive playmakers senior outside hitter Maddy Kline and middle blocker Anna Moss. Aggressive serves and disrupting UNCW’s system were on the top of the list of JMU’s scouting report.

“Their outside no. 9 and middle no. 4 are both great players,” head coach Lauren Steinbrecher said. “They’re seniors, so we wanted to make sure we got as many double blocks on them as we could. They’re a good serving team and a good passing team so we focused a lot on going after it on the service line.”

The Dukes had six aces, twice what the Seahawks had, and fewer serving errors as well. Despite engineering a strategy based on making risky serves, the Dukes finished with an efficient rate.

With the victory over UNCW, the Dukes’ winning streak grew to eight. The Dukes will look to do so again in their next matchup Friday at 7 p.m. against Northeastern.

Contact Michael Turner at turnermb@dukes.jmu.edu. For more volleyball coverage, follow the Breeze sports desk on twitter @theBreezeSports.

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