In 2017, JMU volleyball finished third in the CAA; then, in 2018, the team finished second. The Dukes haven’t seen the NCAA tournament since 2017, which was also the last year they won the CAA tournament. The last time they won the CAA regular season was in 2016, and last year, the team fell just short of a CAA final appearance.
This year will be different for JMU, and there are many reasons why.
Senior middle blocker M’Kaela White is still M’Kaela White. The preseason All-CAA player has been crucial for the Dukes over the course of her time at JMU. In her sophomore year, White was Second-Team All-CAA and was on the Virginia Sports Information Directors All-State first team. She’s also put up two double-doubles on the year. In her junior year, White had 308 kills on the year along with 172 blocks. She participated on the USA National Collegiate Team in Anaheim, California, and received all CAA honors.
Now a senior, White hasn’t slowed down. Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches tall, White’s energy is still dominant, and she’s still putting up the numbers she did early on in her career. On Oct.12, White stood out and recorded 13 kills and two aces against William & Mary to help the Dukes take a 3-0 sweep over the Tribe. With White still playing strong and her energy helping teammates on the court, she’s a key player for JMU’s playoff run.
Another notable factor for the Dukes is the freshman impact. Middle hitter Sophia Davis, outside hitter Danielle Nathan and setter Caroline Dozier have all seen minutes this season. Nathan has earned more playing time as the season has progressed and has become a reliable outside hitter for JMU. She had a career-high 17 kills against College of Charleston and has been consistent in that area. Dozier, even though she’s seen the least action out of the three, has also produced. In her season debut against Kennesaw State, she tallied 40 assists-numbers that are similar to senior setter Sarah Martin.
The most notable freshman may be Davis. She was named the CAA Defensive Player of the Week on Monday and recorded her first double-double in only her fourth game as a Duke. Since her collegiate debut against Washington State, Davis has been a consistent starter and a lead blocker. She’s been named player of the game on multiple occasions, and her team work with Martin has been another reason why JMU’s offense has been so effective.
As great as the freshmen are individually, they’re even better together. Dozier has set up Nathan on multiple occasions, and Nathan and Davis have recorded blocks together almost every game. The freshmen bounce off each other, and the energy they bring to the court isn’t just noticed by the coaching staff and players but by teams across the CAA.
Also, JMU will win take CAA title because of their team spirit. In the team’s two CAA losses to Towson and Delaware, the team was outplayed on some occasions and had lost the gritty point battles on the others. However, no matter how far behind they were or how long the team’s point streak may have been, the team was still energetic. They’d cheer after every point, hype each other up on the sidelines or the court and make sure everyone still had their heads in the game.
When it comes to sports, a team may not be the best, but if they have positive energy, they can go far. JMU volleyball is good and has positive, spirited energy, which means that major success is in its future. The team comes onto the court every game excited and ready to go, no matter the opponent, and as long as this continues, the team will be successful.
Overall, JMU has what it takes to win the CAA. They have senior leadership with White, and she’s playing just as well, if not better, than she did her freshman year. The Dukes have an enormous freshman impact that isn’t only making a difference this year but will make an impact for years to come; Davis, Nathan and Dozier are already making a face for JMU volleyball as freshmen. There’s also the energy and positive spirit that the team brings every game and maintains, no matter the opponent or score.
JMU volleyball has what it takes. They have the offense; they have the defense; they have the spirit. Now, it’s just about putting it all together for the final part of the regular season.
Contact Savannah Reger at email@example.com. For more volleyball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter at @TheBreezeSports.