This Week in Atlantic Sun Volleyball: Sept. 27

Thursday, September 27, 2012

MACON, Ga. – A total of 11 conference and two non-conference matches are in store for A-Sun volleyball as the second week of conference play unfolds beginning Friday evening.

Two key matchups include a road swing to Kennesaw State and Mercer for the 3-0 Lipscomb Bisons, while the A-Sun's other 3-0 team, FGCU, loooks to make use of its home court advantage when it hosts ETSU and USC Upstate. Northern Kentucky will also have something to say about its current  three-way tie for second with KSU and Mercer, as the Norse look to remain undefeated on the road as they also face the Owls and the Bears.

At least one of the three teams still seeking a conference win – North Florida, USC Upstate and Stetson – will find at least one this week. Stetson faces USC Upstate and North Florida along with ETSU. The Spartans also have FGCU, while North Florida also travels a few miles to battle Jacksonville.  

A-Sun Volleyball Notes (#ASunVB)

• Jacksonville plays its first home match this weekend, hosting cross-town rival North Florida on Friday night and FGCU on Tuesday, Oct. 2. The Ospreys are 3-4 this season on the road, while the Eagles are 2-4 but on a three-game win streak. The Dolphins look to build on the momentum from their 3-0 road win over Stetson in their last match.

• Lipscomb begins the A-Sun season 3-0 for the fifth consecutive season. The last time the Bisons did not do so was the 2007-08 season, when they opened with losses to Mercer and ETSU. In the last four years, Lipscomb has opened the season 9-0 (2011-12), finished a perfect 12-0 in 2010-11 and 20-0 in 2009-10, and began 7-0 in 2008-09. Jewell Dobson is the conference leader in hitting pct. (.500) in conference play.

• It is a big weekend at the KSU Convocation Center, as Kennesaw State hosts two of the three teams currently ahead of it in the A-Sun standings. Three-time defending champ Lipscomb travels to Kennesaw for Friday’s matchup, and the Norse roll in for their showdown with the Owls on Saturday. The Bisons are 2-4 on the road thus far this season, while the Norse (5-0) have proven to be road warriors in 2012. In conference play, the Owls lead the A-Sun in kills (15.60/set), assists (14.90/set) and service aces (1.70/set)

• In a quick comparison of the 3-0 A-Sun leaders, FGCU has swept two of its first three A-Sun matches, going past three sets with only Mercer in the win over the Bears, 3-2. Conversely, Lipscomb has gone to five sets in two of its three A-Sun victories, defeating Northern Kentucky and North Florida in five while sweeping Jacksonville. FGCU leads the A-Sun in opponents’ hitting pct. (.109) and is second in digs (16.73), while Lipscomb is the A-Sun leader in hitting pct. (.300).

• For two consecutive weeks, the A-Sun has been the only Division I conference that had two student-athletes ranked among the top 12 players nationally in digs per set in the NCAA statistical rankings. After sitting at No. 2 last week, North Florida’s Nicole Baran checks in at No. 7 this week, averaging 5.74 digs per set. Mercer’s Emily Rochefort, ranked at No. 5 last week, is now at No. 12, averaging 5.63 digs per set.

• Along with Baran, there are others in the A-Sun ranked in the Top 10 of the latest NCAA statistics. North Florida’s Dagnija remains among the nation’s leaders in service aces, checking in at No. 9 and averaging .54 per set. In the team rankings, Mercer – led by Rochefort– is second in the nation in digs per set (19.00/set) and North Florida – led by Baran– is ninth (18.02/set).

• ETSU heads to the Sunshine State this week to face FGCU and Stetson. The Bucs are 1-4 on the road this season and have lost their last four matches in Fort Myers. Stetson is 1-6 at home in 2012, and ETSU has won nine straight over the Hatters. The Bucs continue to lead the A-Sun in blocks in conference play, averaging 2.83 pet set. Meredith Hardy (1.50/set) and Khadijah Wiley (1.33/set) are the conference leaders in that category, while offensively Megan Devine leads the A-Sun in kills, averaging 4.50/set) and Katie Muey and Kayla Williams are in a tie for first with .50 service aces per set.

• Mercer looks to make the most of the remaining two games of its five-game A-Sun homestand this weekend, hosting Northern Kentucky and Lipscomb. The Bears are 2-1 at home, and face the Norse for the first time. Mercer has not fared well against the Bisons in the last five years, taking only set from Lipscomb since defeating the Bisons 3-2 in 2007. The Bears lead the A-Sun in digs, averaging 18.17/set in conference pay, and are ranked No. 2 in the country overall with 19.00 per set.

• USC Upstate is looking for its first road win of the season this weekend, traveling to Florida to face Stetson on Friday and FGCU on Saturday. The Spartans’ Kayla McAvoy is third in the A-Sun in hitting pct. (.455) and fourth in kills (3.86 per set). The Hatters won the last meeting in DeLand, a 3-0 victory on Oct. 15, 2011, but the Spartans have won four of the last five overall. Stetson is fourth in the A-Sun in digs, averaging 15.70 per set.

• FGCU is off to a 3-0 start in conference play for the fifth time in the last six years. As you would imagine, the Eagles’ numbers are up across the board in conference play, the most noticeable in  +2.6 in kills per set, +2.53 in assists per set, and +3 in digs per set. The Eagles have won all four matches with ETSU and USC Upstate in Alico Arena since joining the A-Sun in 2007, incuding 3-1 victories over both in 2011.