vball 11/14

JMU senior right side Cameryn Jones spikes the ball versus Appalachian State in a win Sept. 23. Jones played in her last-ever match at Godwin Hall on Saturday in JMU's straight set victory over South Alabama to move to 21-4 (15-1 Sun Belt).

As soon as junior outside hitter Miёtte Veldman’s final kill hit the hardwood, streamers rained down from the bleachers in Sinclair Gymnasium.

Veldman’s 16th kill of the match was the final point scored in Godwin Hall’s 50 years as the home for JMU volleyball. In its final campaign in the historic building, JMU sent off the gym with an 11-0 home season record, concluded with a three-set sweep of South Alabama on Saturday.

“So many emotions at this moment,” JMU head coach Lauren Steinbrecher 

said postgame. “So proud of the team. I think they absolutely crushed it and sent Godwin out in style."

Saying farewell to Godwin with a win was no easy task, despite what the sweep indicates. The match featured 33 ties and 15 lead changes. The Jaguars and Dukes had to go to extra points to decide the first set, which ended in a 28-26 JMU victory. The two teams then entered the final five points of both the second and third sets tied at 20-20.

Steinbrecher said that even though it only went three sets, it still felt like a five-set match. As she predicted before the series, the match was a “battle.” 

Senior setter Caroline Dozier said the team knew it would be a battle, too, but that a sweep was still possible. 

“I’m super proud of everyone on the team,” Dozier said. “It was a full team effort these past few days and just a grind.”

Aside from the celebration for “Goodbye Godwin,” the postgame ceremonies also featured a ceremony for Senior Night, where graduate right side Cameryn Jones and senior outside hitter Danielle Nathan were honored.

“Cam and Dani put so much into this program and are exceptional players, and I’m excited that they’re going to keep playing,” Steinbrecher said of the seniors. “It’ll be fun to follow their careers.”

While most of the night focused on saying goodbye, Nathan seemed more interested in the immediate future.

“Conference [tournament] is next week,” Nathan said, “so not to, like, blow by this, but it just feels like we’re all really ready to go.”

While JMU prepares for its immediate future next week in the Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament, it also looks ahead to next season in the Convocation Center. While Nathan won’t be on the team by then, she said it felt weird to know JMU would be in a new venue next year — Godwin felt like home, she said.

For now, the focus is on the Sun Belt tournament. About an hour after the match wrapped up, the Sun Belt Conference released the tournament’s bracket. JMU will have a first- and second-round bye and will start its time in the tournament in the quarterfinals on Friday at 2:30 p.m. Its opponent will be the winner of the match between Georgia Southern (15-11, 7-7 Sun Belt) and Southern Mississippi (18-10, 10-6 Sun Belt) on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.

“I’m super excited and super ready for the tournament [and to] just bring everything we have,” Dozier said.

Contact Jackson Hephner at hephnejt@dukes.jmu.edu. For more volleyball coverage, follow the sports desk on twitter @TheBreezeSports